US officials are rushing to buy 13 million doses of monkeypox vaccine after the first case of the rare infection was confirmed on US soil and a new possible case was discovered in New York.
The US government has placed a $119 million order with Bavarian Nordic for the Jynneos vaccine, which is effective against both the monkeypox virus and smallpox, the biotech announced.
Another $180 million is poised and waiting to buy even more vaccines if or when needed, allowing the country in total to get 13 million doses into the arms of the American people.
The move comes as the New York City Department of Health and Mental Health confirmed it was investigating a possible case of monkeypox in the Big Apple.
The patient, who is showing some symptoms of the virus, is being treated and kept in isolation at Bellevue Hospital in the heart of Manhattan.
Health officials are currently awaiting test results to confirm the potential case.
If preliminary tests from the Department of Health’s Public Health Laboratory come back positive, they will be sent to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for confirmation, the agency said in a news release.
Contact tracing is already underway to trace anyone who may have come into close contact with the patient as health officials desperately try to avoid a repeat of the Covid-19 crisis that has crippled the city’s healthcare system.
In the early days of the spring 2020 pandemic, New York City was quickly becoming the global virus epicenter, with 815 deaths in a single deadliest day in April of this year.
Hospitals were on the verge of collapse as healthcare workers were overwhelmed by sick patients and bodies piling up in refrigerated trucks across the city.
While monkeypox is less contagious than Covid-19 and an effective vaccine is already available, the World Health Organization has started holding daily emergency meetings on the infection as cases continue to spread around the world.
In the US, the CDC is urging the public not to panic while the agency investigates at least six other possible cases of the infection.
The six people are being monitored after they were seated near an infected traveler on a flight from Nigeria to the UK earlier this month, the CDC said.
None of the six people show symptoms of monkeypox and are said to be healthy and at low risk of contracting monkeypox.
The New York patient – who is showing symptoms – does not appear to be among the six.
CDC official Jennifer McQuiston told CNN that “the general public should not be concerned” about the sudden increase in infections with the rare disease.
“We have a level of scientific concern about what we are seeing because this is a very unusual situation,” she said.
“Monkeypox is usually 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 reported is definitely outside of normal levels for what we would see.”
“At the same time, there really aren’t that many reported cases — I think maybe a dozen, a few dozen — so the general public shouldn’t be concerned that they’re at immediate risk of monkeypox.”
This comes after a Massachusetts man became the first confirmed case on US soil this year.
On Wednesday, the Massachusetts Department of Health and Human Services announced the case of the man who recently returned from a trip to Canada where he had traveled by private transportation.
The patient is in good condition at Massachusetts General Hospital.
The state agency said there was “no risk to the public” and it was working closely with the CDC and other health officials to identify anyone who may have come into contact with the patient while he was contagious.
Two cases of the infection were reported in the US last year, most recently in November when an American tested positive after returning to Maryland from a trip to Nigeria.
Another case was confirmed in Texas in July in a US citizen who had also traveled on two commercial flights from Nigeria to the US.
In both cases, no further cases were detected in the United States after health officials conducted contact tracing and monitored all of the people’s close contacts.
It was 2003 when the first-ever human case of monkeypox was detected on US soil — and the first ever confirmed outside of Africa — when the nation witnessed an outbreak in six states.
A total of 47 confirmed and probable cases were reported in Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin.
All of the patients contracted the infection after exposure to prairie dogs kept near imported small mammals from Ghana, according to the CDC.
The latest case in the US comes as cases have surfaced in several countries that have not normally reported monkeypox since early May.
In addition to the United States, cases have now also been found in Canada, Great Britain, Australia, Spain, Portugal, France, Germany, Italy and Sweden.
It’s not yet clear how the individuals were exposed to the rare infection – which doesn’t occur naturally in the US or Europe.
The virus is believed to initially spread from animals to humans before then spreading from person to person through close contact with an infected person.
Experts are investigating possible spread through sex, after recently confirmed cases involving men who reported having sex with other men.
Symptoms are said to resemble smallpox and include fever, headache, chills, muscle aches and fatigue.
After about one to three days of fever, the patient typically develops a rash on the face before spreading to other parts of the body.
Lesions on the body go through different stages before eventually falling off.
The main difference between the symptoms of smallpox and monkeypox, according to the CDC, is that monkeypox causes the lymph nodes to swell.
In most cases, symptoms are mild, but the virus has been fatal in about one in ten cases in Africa.
Monkeypox was first detected in monkeys in 1958 when two outbreaks of a smallpox-like disease were detected in research animals.
The first case of monkeypox in humans was recorded in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.