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CDC Preparing for More Cases as Outbreak of Smallpox-Like Illness in Europe Spreads to America

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While many continue to worry about the various coronavirus outbreaks, medical authorities are tracking a new worry after cases of monkeypox have been found in Europe — and now even the U.S.A.

On Wednesday, authorities confirmed that a Massachusetts man who had recently visited Canada by car had contracted a case of the monkeypox, according to STAT News.

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Neither the Massachusetts Department of Public Health nor the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are yet able to trace the case to outbreaks in Europe. However, the CDC has warned that more cases are likely.

“Given that we have seen now confirmed cases out of Portugal, suspected cases out of Spain, we’re seeing this expansion of confirmed and suspect cases globally, we have a sense that no one has their arms around this to know how large and expansive it might be. And given how much travel there is between the United States and Europe, I am very confident we’re going to see cases in the United States,” Jennifer McQuiston, deputy director of the CDC’s division of high consequence pathogens and pathology, told STAT.

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The Public Health Agency of Canada has also noted that it is on alert for cases in Canada, since the man from Massachusetts had visited there. And so far, up to 13 suspected cases are being investigated in Canada — though none are confirmed.

The U.S. joins countries including Italy, Sweden and others with cases of monkeypox.

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“We have had positive cases identified in the U.K., Portugal, and Spain. And we expect there will be others,” said World Health Organization official Maria Van Kerkhove.

Until recently, monkeypox cases outside Africa have been rare, STAT News reported, “though there was a large outbreak in the United States in 2003 that involved 47 confirmed and probable cases in six states. That outbreak, the first reported from outside of Africa, was traced back to the importation of small mammals from Ghana.

“However, in the past few years there has been small increases in exported monkeypox cases. The U.S. detected two in 2021, both in travelers who had returned from Nigeria. The U.K. has seen multiple importations in the past few years and Israel and Singapore have also detected cases.”

STAT also reported that officials have no idea how widespread this year’s infection will be.

Tom Inglesby, director of the Center for Health Security at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, warned “this is starting off with much more of a foothold, in a much more distributed way, and we don’t understand how it got … into those networks.

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It is not exactly known how the virus for the disease is spread, but officials in Spain have said that since most of the cases seen there are among gay men, the disease may be spread by sexual contact, according to the Daily Mail.

So far, medical authorities have not been able to determine how any of the current victims have contracted the disease, from whom, or where.

Among the countries thus far to report cases, the U.K. has nine — six in the London area — seven have been found in Spain, and nine in Portugal.

Early symptoms include headaches, fever, muscle and backaches, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion.

Then rashes begin showing on the face before spreading to other parts of the body, especially the genitals. The rashes then develop into a boil that resembles chickenpox, resulting in a scab that will eventually fall off.

Monkeypox, which was first identified in 1958 and is related to smallpox, has an incubation period of 21 days. It can take up to three weeks for symptoms to appear.

Medical authorities recommend that infected patients be isolated for at least 21 days to limit transmission to others.

Dr. Simon Clarke, a microbiologist at the University of Reading, told the Daily Mail that with the most severe variant of the disease, up to one in ten people could die from the infection, because the disease can shut down a patient’s immune system, leaving people open to infections.

However, “the new cases have the [milder] West African variant, which is deadly for around one in 100,” the Daily Mail reported.

Clarke “insisted the disease will not spread like Covid, adding, ‘I would be surprised if we ever got to more than 100 cases [in Britain].'”

Still, some authorities worry that this version may be a different strain that is commonly seen in Africa, where the virus is usually seen.

“We do have a level of concern that this is very different than what we typically think of from monkeypox,” McQuiston added. “We don’t understand how many other cases could be out there in the U.K., for example, with undefined chains of transmission. We have a sense that there might be some unusual methods of transmission, through intimate contact or some form of close personal contact that we’ve not previously associated with monkeypox.”

Fortunately, unlike COVID, this pox doesn’t seem to be so easily spread, but the way the CDC and U.S. health authorities botched the coronavirus outbreaks, one is not very confident that our medical authorities will be able to put a dent in this strange new outbreak.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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