Case of monkeypox reported in Massachusetts man who visited Canada

A small number of confirmed or suspected cases have been reported this month in the United Kingdom, Portugal and Spain.

This 2003 electron microscope image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows mature, oval-shaped monkeypox virions, left, and spherical immature virions, right, obtained from a sample of human skin associated with the 2003 prairie dog outbreak.
This 2003 electron microscope image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows mature, oval-shaped monkeypox virions, left, and spherical immature virions, right, obtained from a sample of human skin associated with the 2003 prairie dog outbreak.

Massachusetts officials have reported a rare case of monkeypox in a man who recently travelled to Canada, with health authorities looking into whether it is connected to small outbreaks in Europe.

Monkeypox is typically limited to Africa and rare cases elsewhere are usually linked to travel the continent. A small number of confirmed or suspected cases have been reported this month in the UK, Portugal and Spain.

US health officials said they are in contact with officials in the UK and Canada as part of the investigation. But “at this point in time, we don’t have any information that links the Massachusetts case to cases in the UK”, said Jennifer McQuiston of the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Though it is the only US case the CDC is aware of, “I do think we are preparing for the possibility of more cases”, she added.

The US case poses no risk to the public and the Massachusetts resident is hospitalised but in good condition, officials said.

The man travelled to Canada at the end of April to meet friends and returned in early May, Dr McQuiston said. A CDC statement said he used private transportation.

The case is the first in the US this year. Last year, Texas and Maryland each reported a case in people who travelled to Nigeria.

Monkeypox typically begins with a flu-like illness and swelling of the lymph nodes, followed by a rash on the face and body. In Africa, people have been infected through bites from rodents or small animals, and it does not usually spread easily among people.

However, investigators in Europe say most of the cases have been in gay or bisexual men and officials are looking into the possibility that some infections were spread through close contact during sex.

Monkeypox comes from the same family of viruses as smallpox. Most people recover from monkeypox within weeks, but the disease is fatal for up to 1 in 10 people, according to the World Health Organisation.

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