New York City has up to 10 suspected cases of monkey pox, and the city’s health department is now specifically signaling an increased risk of infection for men who have sex with other men.
The number of infections in the city has increased fivefold in less than 10 days. Each of the cases has been confirmed to be from the orthopox virus; monkeypox virus belongs to the orthopox virus family.
Right now, there are seven cases of monkey pox in NYC, raising the alarm level of the outbreak. News 4’s Lynda Baquero is live in Washington Heights with new information.
The NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene on Thursday made a subtle change to the language it regularly tweets about the virus, focusing on the city’s LGBTQ community.
“Current cases are mainly spreading among men who have sex with men, so this group is now at greater risk of exposure,” the health department said.
As of late Wednesday, there were 1,200 cases of monkeypox in 29 countries, including 40 in the United States, according to the CDC. The UK has by far the most cases registered, about a quarter of the total.
Earlier this week, the CDC raised its monkeypox alarm to Level 2, encouraging people to “take enhanced precautions” to contain the recent outbreak. Below that level of guidance, people are encouraged to “take enhanced precautions” to contain the outbreak. That’s a step lower than the CDC recommending people “avoid non-essential travel.”
While the CDC said the risk to the general public remains low, the new warning level encourages avoiding close contact with people who are sick, including those with skin or genital lesions, as well as sick or dead animals. Those who show symptoms, such as unexplained rashes or lesions, are also advised to avoid contact with others and contact health care providers for advice.
It is also advised not to eat wild game meat or to use products (such as creams, powders or lotions) that come from wild animals in Africa.
Two leading infectious disease experts warned over the weekend that time was of the essence to stop the virus from spreading, and that it “closes the window” to contain it before it becomes endemic. That came just days after the World Health Organization said it didn’t know whether the outbreak was “too late to contain.”
It takes 7-14 days for symptoms to show up, but can take up to 21 days for them to show up
How do you get Monkeypox?
The vast majority of cases in the US involve men who have sex with men, and many patients have reported international travel. The CDC said last week that all patients across the country are recovering or have already recovered.
The agency is asking doctors to test more aggressively for monkeypox, even if they believe a patient is showing symptoms of another sexually transmitted disease.
There are now five suspected cases of monkey pox in New York City, but officials don’t believe this is cause for immediate panic. Jessica Cunnington of New Four has the latest on what the CDC and medical professionals advise
“They should test for monkey pox even if they think they have a positive test for a common STI,” said Jennifer McQuiston, deputy director of the CDC’s Division of Pathogens and High Consequences Pathology.
Of the first 17 confirmed cases, all 17 had rashes and most had fatigue or chills. A majority had rashes on their arm or chest, although many other areas were affected as well.
Monkeypox ‘Close Window’
As the virus spreads, people with a background in infectious disease history are warning that time is of the essence to contain it.
“The window CLOSES. If we can’t contain it now, that means a lot more work later. Again, #LGBTQ groups don’t seem to see the urgency of the moment, rightly concerned about stigma, but not interested in taking care of this outbreak themselves,” Yale epidemiologist and AIDS activist Gregg Gonsalves tweeted Saturday morning.
His colleagues agreed, calling on the LGBTQ community to make more aggressive efforts to stop the spread.
“The window to eliminate monkey pox is closing. LGBTQ groups could use #GayPrideMonth #gaypride2022 events to educate, screen, test and vaccinate… before it’s too late,” Celine Gounder, an NYU infectious disease specialist and former Biden Administration COVID advisor, tweeted in response to Gonsalves.
Some local governments are taking matters into their own hands. On Monday, public health officials in Montreal began offering vaccinations to people who had been exposed to someone with monkey pox, and to men who have sex with men and who have had at least two partners in the past 14 days.
In the United States, the federal Department of Health and Human Services ordered an additional 36,000 doses of vaccine that were transferred from their manufacturer to a national stockpile.
What is Monkeypox?
Monkeypox was first discovered in 1958, when outbreaks occurred in colonies of monkeys kept for research – resulting in its name. (What you need to know about monkey pox.)
The first human case was reported in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where most infections still exist. Other African countries where it is found: Cameroon, Central African Republic, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Liberia, Nigeria, Republic of the Congo and Sierra Leone.
Human monkeypox symptoms are similar to but milder than smallpox symptoms, the CDC says. It presents as a flu-like illness accompanied by swelling of the lymph nodes and a rash on the face and body.
Monkeypox starts with a fever, headache, muscle aches and exhaustion. Monkeypox also causes lymph nodes to swell, which smallpox does not. The incubation period is usually 7-14 days, but can range from 5-21 days.
The CDC is urging health care providers in the US to be alert to patients who have a rash consistent with monkeypox, regardless of whether they have traveled or have specific risks for monkeypox. View more information from the travel report here.