OOn Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) raised its monkeypox alert level to Level 2, or “Practice Enhanced Precautions.” Guidance includes wearing masks while traveling, as well as avoiding close contact with sick animals and people, especially those with skin lesions.
The highest level warning, Level 3, will warn against non-essential travel.
Emphasizing that the risk was not at the same level as for Covid-19, the agency is tracking cases that have been reported in several countries that don’t routinely report monkeypox, including the United States. Many of these people have not recently been to Central or West African countries where monkeypox is common.
The largest outbreaks outside of Africa are currently occurring in Europe. There are currently 302 cases in the United Kingdom, 198 in Spain and 153 in Portugal.
Of the 30 cases reported in the US, seven are in New York, six in California and four in Florida. Most confirmed monkeypox cases in the US report international travel and identify as either men who have sex with men, the CDC said in a report released last week.
Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus. It usually first presents as flu-like symptoms (fever, headache, muscle aches), and then patients develop a painful rash, lesions, and swollen lymph nodes. According to the CDC, the incubation period between exposure and the onset of the first symptoms is typically seven to 14 days, but can range from five to 21 days.
The monkeypox virus can be passed on to another infected person until all the scabs fall off and a fresh layer of skin appears, which can take up to a month, according to the CDC. The disease can be fatal in 11% of infected people.
The CDC says travelers can protect themselves from infection by doing the following:
- Avoid close contact (including sexual contact) with people who are sick or have a rash, and contaminated objects. Don’t kiss, hug or touch. Do not share cutlery or cups. Do not touch the bed linen or clothes of a sick person.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Keep hands away from eyes, nose and mouth. If you need to touch your face, make sure your hands are clean.
- Avoid animals while traveling. Do not touch live or dead wild animals. Do not touch or eat foods derived from wild animals. Do not touch materials such as bedding that have been used by animals.
Health experts have not identified the source of the outbreak…