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US monitoring over 200 people for potential monkeypox exposure

US monitoring over 200 people for potential monkeypox exposure

US health officials are monitoring more than 200 people for potential exposure to monkeypox, after an individual who contracted the disease in Nigeria returned to Texas in July.

Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by a virus similar to smallpox. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it was discovered in 1958 when two outbreaks occurred in colonies of monkeys kept for research.

Symptoms include fever, muscle aches, chills, exhaustion, swollen lymph nodes and a rash that often begins on the face and spreads to the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet.

The CDC said it was working with airline, state and local health authorities in 27 states to identify and assess individuals who may have been in contact with the person on flights from Lagos to Atlanta and Atlanta to Dallas on 9 July.

The individual went to the emergency room at a Dallas hospital and was diagnosed with monkeypox on 15 July, Stat News reported.

People being monitored include those who sat within 6ft of the infected individual on flight from Lagos, those who used the flight’s bathroom, flight attendants, airline workers who cleaned the bathroom and family members who came in contact with the individual in Dallas.

The CDC said the infection rate for the monkeypox strain concerned was one in 100 people.

“It’s believed the risk of spread of monkeypox on the plane and in the airports is low, as travelers were required to wear masks due to the Covid-19 pandemic and monkeypox is primarily spread through respiratory droplets,” it said.

The Dallas county judge, Clay Jenkins, said: “While rare, this case is not a reason for alarm and we do not expect any threat to the general public. Dallas county health and human services is working closely with local providers, as well as our state and federal partners.”

The incubation period for monkeypox ranges from three to 17 days, similar to the two- to 14-day period for Sars-CoV-2. Nevertheless, the CDC has asked health authorities to monitor the individuals for 21 days, ending on 30 July.

“We’re in the time frame where we certainly want to closely monitor people,” said Andrea McCollum, who leads the poxvirus epidemiology unit at the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases.

“It is a lot of people,” she said.

The last detection of monkeypox in the US was in 2003, when 47 confirmed and probable cases were reported in six states. The outbreak occurred after a shipment from Ghana to Texas contained rodents and small mammals that had the virus.

Nigeria has seen a rise in monkeypox cases and seven exported cases have been detected: four in the UK and others in Israel, Singapore and the US.

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