Georgia is the ninth state to detect a monkeypox infection, health chiefs said Tuesday night — as the US tally rose to 18.
Another three cases have been detected across the country in the past 24 hours in the same number of states.
They included the infection in Georgia in an Atlanta man who had a “history of international travel” and a fourth in New York.
In California, health chiefs said their third case was also in Sacramento in a “close contact” of the first patient diagnosed after returning from Europe.
Most cases in America have been detected in gay and bisexual men, with health chiefs often tying them to international travel.
But there is now mounting evidence that the virus is spreading onto American soil for the first time since at least 2003, with infections being spotted in “close contact” cases.
To limit the spread, Dr. Hans Kluge of the World Health Organization’s Europe branch on Wednesday urged people to reduce the number of times they have sexual contact, as he warned the virus may be difficult to contain.
Global health chiefs have been surprised by the outbreak outside West Africa – where it is native – with the virus now being detected in more than two dozen countries with 600 confirmed infections, 70 percent of them in Europe.
Georgia today became the ninth state to report an outbreak of monkeypox. A fourth case was also reported in New York and a third in California that was in “close contact” with a previous infection
Reduce the number of sexual partners you have to fight monkeypox, the World Health Organization says
People should reduce the number of their sexual partners to combat the spread of monkeypox, the World Health Organization has urged.
dr Hans Kluge, head of WHO’s European department, has warned that the current outbreak of the tropical disease “may be uncontainable”.
He warned that Europe had become the new epicenter of the virus as the outbreak was linked to sexual transmission at raves and festivals across the continent.
dr Kluge insisted the virus “will not require the same sweeping population measures” as Covid, but said “significant and urgent” measures were needed to prevent further cases.
The WHO stopped requiring contacts of known cases to be quarantined, but called for “critical” twice-daily temperature checks and “close monitoring”.
dr Kluge said that while the cases have been focused on men who have sex with men, nothing has prevented it from spreading to other groups.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed the three additional cases in their daily monkeypox dashboard update.
Native to West Africa, monkeypox is typically spread via physically contacting infectious skin lesions that can appear anywhere on the body.
Patients develop a fever within 21 days of infection before developing a facial rash that spreads to other areas and painful skin lesions.
Most cases are mild and clear up on their own. However, some are becoming serious as the mortality rate of the strain currently circulating in America is around one in 100.
Doctors are currently offering patients antibiotics to treat the infections.
Stocks of a smallpox vaccine – believed to be effective against its close relative, monkeypox – are also being made available to boost immunity in close patient contacts.
The US has so far detected a total of 18 cases.
New York City has the most with four infections, followed by California and Florida, both of which have detected three cases.
Two have also been sighted in Colorado and Utah, and one each in Georgia, Massachusetts, Virginia and Washington.
Most cases affect gay and bisexual men and can be traced to international travel to areas where the disease is currently endemic.
But health chiefs warn that if the virus continues to spread undetected, the virus could spread to other populations.
Kluge issued a warning to Europe – where the outbreak is fiercest – on Wednesday, saying “significant and urgent” action was needed to contain the virus – albeit not on the scale required for Covid.
The boss stopped calling for contacts of known cases to be quarantined but said it was “crucial” to have twice-daily temperature checks and close monitoring.
The WHO earlier this week upgraded the global threat level to “moderate” and warned that community spread could result in vulnerable patients or children contracting the virus, which can also spread through touch or interaction with contaminated surfaces or clothing spreads.
Experts have previously linked the outbreak to two festivals in Europe: the Pride festival in Gran Canaria, which ran between May 5 and 15, and a major fetish festival in Antwerp, which ran from May 5 to 8 took place.
The growing case numbers come as America prepares for Pride marches across the country this month.
But a WHO adviser has said those events during the outbreak do not pose an “increased” risk of contracting the virus.
On Monday, Andy Seale of the WHO’s HIV, Hepatitis and Sexually Transmitted Diseases Unit said there was “no increased risk” of contracting the virus at Pride marches.
He added that condoms wouldn’t protect anyone from infection because the skin lesions – through which the virus spreads – open up throughout the body.
In the UK, health chiefs are advising people suffering from symptoms of the virus, such as a skin rash, to avoid sex and close physical contact.
Once someone has cleared an infection, they are told to wear a condom for eight weeks “as a precaution”. There is no evidence that it spreads through semen.
Speaking at the conference, Seale said: “From our perspective, we want to send out a message that it’s important that people who want to go out and celebrate Gay Pride LGBTQ+ Pride continue to do so.
“Most of these events are outdoors, they are family friendly.
“We see no reason to worry about an increased likelihood of transmission in this context, given that the parties we investigated have been in more confined spaces etc.”
In the briefing, Seale also advised that wearing a condom would not be enough to stop the spread of the virus.
“We should not be afraid to recall that it is still useful to talk about condoms, for example, to protect people from pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.
“But with monkeypox, condoms offer no additional protection – given that close physical contact is the main risk factor.”