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CDC monitoring potential monkeypox cases in U.S.

Officials are considering whether a vaccine should be offered to healthcare workers who treat patients with monkeypox


This 1997 image provided by CDC shows the right arm and torso of a patient with lesions from a case of monkeypox.

File photo/CDC/AP

By Leila Merrill

ATLANTA — Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are considering whether the smallpox vaccine should be offered to healthcare workers who treat patients with monkeypox and other people who may be at high risk of exposure to the virus, CNN reported.

The CDC is tracking outbreaks of monkeypox all over the world, including six possible cases in the U.S.

CDC officials also are investigating a monkeypox case in Massachusetts. The man recently traveled to Canada.

The New York City Health Department is investigating a possible infection, too.

“We have a level of scientific concern about what we’re seeing because this is a very unusual situation. Monkeypox is normally only reported in West Africa or Central Africa, and we don’t see it in the United States or in Europe — and the number of cases that are being reported is definitely outside the level of normal for what we would see,” Jennifer McQuiston, deputy director of the Division of High Consequence Pathogens and Pathology within the CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, told CNN on Thursday.

The six people being monitored “are healthy, with no symptoms and are considered at low risk for monkeypox,” CDC spokesperson Christine Pearson wrote in an email.

McQuiston said that a decision on whether to offer the smallpox vaccine to those who may be at risk should come “in the next day or so.”

Smallpox and monkeypox are both members of the Orthopoxvirus genus, and some of the vaccines that are given to prevent smallpox have also been shown to be effective against monkeypox.

“We have vaccines that are stockpiled and available to be used, and if judged as a way to help manage this outbreak, we have the availability to use them,” McQuiston said.

The disease is uncommon in the U.S.

The symptoms can include fever, headache, body or muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes and a rash with lesions.

“This is not a disease that is going to sweep across the country,” said Dr. Daniel Bausch, president of the American Society of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene.

“From a public health angle, of course, we need to investigate and respond -- I think the general population should just be aware of this -- but there’s certainly no reason to panic and I think it’s highly, highly, highly unlikely that we will get any sort of large outbreak of this,” he said. “And if you haven’t had contact in Massachusetts and you’re not related to the person who had disease or in that link at all -- until we have any other reason to expect or to understand how this disease got into the United States -- your risk of getting monkeypox is really low.”

If monkeypox is suspected, consult your state health department or the CDC’s monkeypox call center through the CDC Emergency Operations Center (770-488-7100).