WASHINGTON, D.C. – Monkeypox is already making its presence felt in the United States, with as many as 300 cases having already been reported – far more then the official estimate of 31 – but, due to the lack of proper testing protocols, experts say that number could be significantly more and growing.
On May 6, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) raised its alert level for monkeypox to level 2 and issued an advisory that travelers should wear masks, avoid individuals who show signs of being ill – such as skin or genital lesions – and regularly wash their hands.
“Cases of monkeypox have been reported in Europe, North America, South America, Africa, Asia, and Australia,” the CDC said. “Some cases were reported among men who have sex with men. Some cases were also reported in people who live in the same household as an infected person.”
The agency also cautioned those traveling to avoid contact with wild animals such a rodents and monkeys – either living or dead – and not to eat meat or use products such as creams and lotions taken from African wild game animals.
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“Avoid contact with contaminated materials used by sick people (such as clothing, bedding, or materials used in health care settings) or that came into contact with infected animals,” the CDC added.
However, the CDC amended their advisory on May 7, removing the mask-wearing suggestion “because it caused confusion,” according to an agency spokesperson.
Currently, the UK has the highest degree of monkeypox infections in the world; however, according to infectious diseases expert Dr Boghuma Titanji of the Emory University in Georgia, the U.S. may be catching up due to the convoluted testing process to detect the disease.
Current testing for monkeypox involves a patient’s nostrils being swabbed, and that sample being sent to one of just 74 laboratories that are currently able to conduct the test; those results must then be sent to the CDC for verification.
Due to this lengthy and complicated process – as well as the fact that some cases of monkeypox are mild and go away without treatment – Dr. Titanji notes that there may be far more cases in the U.S. currently than officials can confirm.
Pharmaceutical giant Moderna – known for their COVID-19 vaccine – is already in the process of developing a monkeypox vaccine, according to reports.
Monkeypox symptoms typically appear similar to the flu, including fever, headache, muscle aches, chills, exhaustion and swollen lymph nodes. Later symptoms include rashes on the face, hands, feet, eyes, mouth or genitals that eventually can become blisters. According to the University of California San Francisco, Monkeypox can occasionally be deadly, especially in poor places with inadequate health care.