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Monkeypox identified in Massachusetts General Hospital patient

CBS Boston logo CBS Boston 5/19/2022 CBSBoston.com Staff

BOSTON - Massachusetts health officials announced they have confirmed a case of monkeypox, the first case of the rare virus identified in the United States in 2022.

The Department of Public Health said Wednesday that the infection was found in an adult man who recently traveled to Canada. They say this case poses no risk to the general public.

The man, a Massachusetts resident, has been hospitalized at Massachusetts General Hospital since May 12. He is in isolation and in stable condition. The hospital said because the disease is so rare, it took six days to diagnose him with the help of the CDC.

Read: CDC explains monkeypox

The DPH is working to identify anyone who may have been in close contact with the man while he was infectious. 

MGH doctors said the patient traveled to Canada but did not have a travel history to areas with high levels of monkeypox. It's normally found in Africa.


Video: Monkeypox confirmed in Massachusetts; first US case identified in 2022 (CBS Boston)

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DPH said monkeypox can resemble early flu-like symptoms and turn into lesions that spread on the body. Most infections last between two and four weeks. However, health officials said monkeypox is not easily spread and the reason they are giving so much attention to this case is because it was not transmitted through contact with an animal or through travel to areas with high cases of monkeypox, but through human-to-human contact.

"As we learn more we urge health care providers particularly those in outpatient settings to remain vigilant to potential cases and to take any necessary precautions," said Dr. Sarimer Sanchez, the medical director for Boston Public Health Commission's Infectious Disease Bureau.

"I would emphasize that historically this has been a rare disease with very rare transmission around the world. What we have seen in the United Kingdom, in Spain and in Europe has been novel and that gives us cause for concern, but I think appropriately people should not be afraid of monkeypox right now. The current patient is of no public health risk right now. People should just be aware of symptoms, but not be afraid in any way," said MGH Dr. Paul Biddinger.

"Really right now, human-to-human transmission really has occurred through close contact, generally speaking. And that is close contact via respiratory droplets and prolonged face-to-face contact, as well as direct contact through lesions or in direct contact through contaminated bedding or, sort of, clothing contaminated with the lesions," said Dr. Sanchez.

The CDC is tracking multiple clusters of monkeypox that have been reported within the past two weeks in Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom. These countries do not normally report monkeypox.

According to the CDC, "It's not clear how people in those clusters were exposed to monkeypox but cases include individuals who self-identify as men who have sex with men."

The United States identified two cases of monkeypox in Texas and Maryland in 2021 from people who had recent travel to Nigeria. 

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