The US has now identified 45 monkeypox cases scattered across 15 states and the District of Columbia, while the multinational outbreak has reached more than 1,300 confirmed cases from at least 31 countries. No deaths were reported.
In a news conference on Friday, US health officials gave updates on efforts to halt the spread of the virus and address unfounded concerns that the virus is airborne.
So far, no cases of airborne transmission have been reported in the outbreak, which is spreading almost exclusively through sexual networks of men who have sex with men. Monkeypox can spread through large, short-range respiratory droplets, and healthcare providers are urged to be careful during certain procedures, such as B. intubation, wearing masks and taking other precautions. But the overall dispersal potential via smaller, long-range aerosols is more speculative and theoretical.
“Monkeypox is not believed to be airborne and is not typically transmitted during brief periods of common airspace,” Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in the briefing. There’s no evidence it’s spread by having a casual conversation, walking past someone in a store, or touching the same object, such as a doorknob, she noted.
Officials see the current outbreak spreading through “close, sustained physical contact,” she added. “This is consistent with what we have seen in previous outbreaks and what we know from decades of studying this virus and closely related viruses.”
The CDC is still collecting clinical data on some of the country’s 45 cases, but those with data all relate to direct physical contact, such as sex, CDC officials said. Most are associated with international travel.
“Everyone reports some type of close contact that can be related to direct skin-to-skin contact,” Jennifer McQuiston, deputy director of the CDC’s Division of Pathogens and Serious Consequence Pathology, said in the briefing. “It’s often difficult to distinguish what a face-to-face is [respiratory] Transmission by droplets might compare to direct skin contact as people are very intimate and close to each other. But all of our patients have reported direct skin contact.”
Officials were keen to clarify the points after the New York Times published a controversial story earlier this week stressing the potential of airborne transmission and drawing comparisons to failures in communication earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic. virologists and health experts have already noted that there is evidence of airborne transmission for monkeypox thin at best– and clearly not the primary route of transmission. The article can too increase the stigma around the infectionsaid some, which health officials have worked hard to avoid.
Moreover, as Walensky noted, unlike the novel coronavirus that public health officials and virologists have been trying to understand during the rampant pandemic, experts have decades of experience with monkeypox. The virus was first identified in monkeys in 1958, and the first case in humans was observed in 1970. There have been regular outbreaks in Central and West Africa, where the virus is endemic and found in animals. Aside from the multinational outbreak, for example, there have been more than 1,400 confirmed and suspected cases in endemic countries this year, including 66 deaths.
While airborne transmission is not a major concern, health officials are scrambling to contain the current outbreak and are urging people to take it seriously. Earlier this week, the World Health Organization urged countries to “make every effort to identify all cases and contacts to control this outbreak and prevent further spread.”
“The risk of monkeypox becoming established in non-endemic countries is real,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
While the outbreak continues to be mostly seen in men, and particularly men who have sex with men, the virus can spread and infect anyone. A small number of cases in women have already been identified. “The WHO is particularly concerned about the risks of this virus to vulnerable groups, including children and pregnant women,” Tedros said.
In Friday’s briefing, Walensky and other federal health officials highlighted some of their work to contain the outbreak. That starts with efforts to raise awareness of the disease and what it looks and feels like. Cases cannot be tested, treated, or traced back unless people know what to look for.
In this outbreak, monkeypox appears to be showing up mainly – but not entirely – as in the past: a disease that develops five to 21 days after prolonged physical contact with an infected person. Usually, monkeypox begins as a flu-like illness before developing into a telltale rash with lesions all over the body, concentrating on the extremities, including the face, palms, and soles. The lesions begin flat but then become raised, fluid-filled, and crusting. The lesions contain large numbers of the virus, and direct contact with them, their fluid, or materials contaminated by the lesions spreads the virus. A person is considered non-contagious when all lesion scabs have fallen off and a fresh layer of intact skin has formed.