The first possible cases of human-to-human transmission monkeypox in the United States this year.
Four cases were detected this weekend overall – with two California and one in each Colorado and New York.
This brings the number of infections in the United States to 14 in eight states, and most of the infections are among gay and bisexual men.
California health officials said the second case identified this weekend was “close contact” of an initial patient diagnosed three days earlier.
In Colorado, another person being tested for the virus is “close contact” with a gay or bisexual young man who was found infected the day before.
The first patients in each state fell ill shortly after returning from overseas trips to Europe and Canada, respectively, which are facing outbreaks of the virus endemic to West Africa.
The spread of cases in 24 countries prompted the World Health Organization (WHO) to raise the threat level of the virus to the ‘moderate’ level.
They warned that if infections continue to increase, vulnerable people and children – who are most likely to die from the virus – could start to contract it.
There are also growing concerns that the disease will be transmitted to wild animals, allowing it to establish itself around the world.
In California, the case was detected in Sacramento – a city of 500,000 – and traced back to the initial infection spotted three days ago.
State health chiefs insisted the risk to the public was “extremely low,” although contact tracing continues.
On May 24, they disclosed a suspected case of an individual who had returned from Europe – which is experiencing an outbreak – the day before.
WHO raises monkeypox risk to ‘moderate’
The threat to the world from monkeypox has been upgraded to “moderate” by the World Health Organization (WHO), as the tropical virus spreads to dozens of countries.
The WHO said the explosion of cases unrelated to each other or to Africa meant the current figure was “likely to be an underestimate”.
She warned that if the infection persists, people at risk and children – who are more likely to die from the virus – may start to contract it.
So far, the outbreak, which was first detected in early May, has spread to 24 countries and has been diagnosed in 106 Britons, the majority of whom are men who have sex with men.
There are also growing concerns that the virus will pass into wild animals and become endemic around the world, such as in parts of Central and West Africa.
Transmission between humans and animals will also increase the risk of monkeypox mutating. For now, the risks to public health are considered moderate, but the World Health Organization has said it is likely to ‘become high’.
In Colorado, officials said their new case was in Denver and that “close contact” with the case had been spotted just a day earlier.
They also said the risk to the public “remains low”.
It was not revealed how the other two cases were infected in California and New York.
Tests are underway at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to confirm it is monkeypox infection.
Most infections are among men, but in Virginia the case was of a woman who had recently returned from West Africa.
The virus has been detected in California, Colorado, Florida, Massachusetts, New York, Utah, Virginia and Washington.
Only people who show symptoms can spread the virus, usually through physical contact with infectious skin lesions.
Although it is not a sexually transmitted infection, health chiefs say the virus may be spread by touch in the genital area.
More than 400 cases have been detected in 24 countries where the virus is not yet endemic, prompting the World Health Organization to raise its threat level.
In a risk assessment published Sunday, they warned that the “moderate” rating could be pushed to “high” if the virus takes the opportunity to establish itself as a human pathogen “and spreads to vulnerable groups.”
The World Health Organization said the ‘sudden emergence’ and ‘wide geographical range’ of cases indicate widespread human-to-human transmission of the virus – which is spread through skin-to-skin contact and droplets of infected people.
It also warned that the increase in monkeypox cases suggested that the virus “may have been spreading unrecognized for several weeks or more”.
Cases reported so far have been mild but there is a risk that the virus could have a ‘greater health impact’ if it spreads to people at risk, including children and people who are immunocompromised, such as some HIV patients, who may be at risk. Especially at risk of injury. More severe disease’.
Monkeypox can kill up to 10 percent of the people it infects. The milder strain that causes the current outbreak kills one in 100 – similar to what happened when Covid first struck. The death rate from the virus was higher among children in previous outbreaks.
The World Health Organization has warned of a ‘high risk’ of further spread of the virus through skin-to-skin contact between families and sexual partners, as well as due to contact with contaminated items, such as utensils, bedding and clothing.
Health leaders have warned that monkeypox, a virus that is endemic in parts of Africa and known for rare and unusual rashes, bumps and lesions, may also spread to some pets and become an epidemic in Europe. File image of an undated publication issued by the UK Health Security Agency for the stages of monkeypox
“However, at present, the risks to the general public appear to be low,” the agency said.
It warned that a “significant portion” of the population is at risk of developing monkeypox due to the discontinuation of the smallpox vaccination programme.
Very few people under the age of 40 have been vaccinated. In the United States, youngsters were routinely given an injection until four decades ago, around the point at which the virus was eradicated.
Because smallpox and monkeypox are very similar, those who received the vaccine are believed to have up to 85 percent immunity to the circulating strain.
She noted that no cases of monkeypox had been recorded among medics in the current outbreak, but an NHS worker had contracted the infection in 2018 after treating a patient who had returned from Nigeria.
In its report, the World Health Organization also warned that people who have recently had multiple sexual partners – whether in their place of residence or abroad – ‘may be at risk’ of developing monkeypox.
She said health chiefs should reach out to at-risk communities, which “for the time being” includes MSM and their close contacts.