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Massachusetts reports two more cases of monkeypox

Massachusetts has reported another two cases of monkeypox bringing the state’s case total to three and the national tally to at least 51 — as Americans are warned to ‘be vigilant’ against the tropical disease.

Health officials in the state said the infections were in adult men in the Boston area who has recent contact with each other but not with the state’s first case reported about a month ago.

The two patients are now in isolation, with contact tracing underway to track down other potential infections.

Oklahoma has also become the sixteenth state to detect the rash-causing virus, with a case reported this weekend in an individual who recently traveled to an unnamed  country experiencing an outbreak.

At least 51 cases have been spotted in the U.S. to date, with Massachusetts epidemiologist Dr Catherine Brown now warning Americans to ‘be vigilant’ for the disease. No deaths have been reported in the outbreak to date.

Last week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed monkeypox could only spread through the air during ‘sustained’ face-to-face contact, as it primarily spreads through physical touch. It came barely 24 hours after they u-turned on guidance telling Americans to wear face masks when traveling to countries with outbreaks. 

A total of 16 states and Washington D.C. have now reported cases of monkeypox. The tags above show the areas that have registered cases of the virus over the last week

Scientists push to drop monkeypox’s name as it is ‘discriminatory against Africa’ 

A group of scientists are calling for the name of the monkeypox virus to be changed arguing it is ‘discriminatory against Africa’.

The tropical disease got its name after it was spotted among monkeys imported into Denmark in 1958 who suffered lesions on their skin similar to those from smallpox.

But in a position paper published on Friday, more than two dozen scientists called for the name of the virus which is native to West Africa to be abandoned.

They wrote: ‘In the context of the current outbreak, continued reference to, and nomenclature of this virus being African is not only inaccurate but is also discriminatory and stigmatizing.’

They drew parallels with the Covid outbreak, where naming variants after countries was abandoned in favour of letters of the Greek alphabet.

Health officials in Massachusetts are yet to say whether their new infections are linked to Rhode Island’s first infection or international travel.

On Friday, Rhode Island reported a case in a man in his 30s that was ‘believed to be related to travel to Massachusetts’.

They did not say whether the case — who has been hospitalized — was linked to the two most recent patients in Massachusetts or the individual from about a month ago.

Announcing the case, Dr Brown said: ‘It is very important to be aware of the symptoms of monkeypox and to be vigilant. 

‘Individuals with concerning rashes should contact their health providers.’

She added: ‘Although monkeypox infections remain rare, and none of the close contacts from Massachusetts’ first case developed monkeypox during their monitoring period, the CDC is reporting that cases continue to rise across the United States.’

The Bay state was the first state to spot the disease in a hospitalized gay or bisexual man from Boston who had recently returned from Canada on May 18.

Since then, the tropical disease has been detected in 16 states and Washington D.C., mostly among gay and bisexual men and linked to international travel.

But a growing number of cases are being detected in close contacts of these individuals, or in people with no links to travel or a known case, confirming stateside transmission.

However, the CDC says that there are no outbreaks in ‘urban centers’ at present — unlike in Europe where several countries have reported more than 100 cases.

One expert has already suggested there could be more than 300 cases in the U.S., but many are going undetected as some patients suffer a mild illness and because of a lack of testing.

Medical literature says monkeypox infections typically begin with a fever and flu-like signs within 21 days before a rash appears on the face and spreads to the rest of the body.

But in the current outbreak many patients are experiencing a rash and skin lesions in genital areas and on the anus before any flu-like symptoms. In some cases, these are also not spreading to other areas of the body.

The tropical disease — native to West Africa — spreads primarily through direct skin-to-skin contact with infectious lesions or by touching bedding and clothing previously used by a sufferer.

The CDC says there are yet to be any cases of the virus transmitting through the air recorded in the United States.

Most cases are mild and clear up on their own within about four weeks. But around one in 100 can be fatal, estimates suggest.

Treatment includes vaccines to boost immunity against the virus in people who have recently being exposed, and various medicines typically reserved for monkeypox. 

Officials are urging gay and bisexual men to be aware of new lesions, rashes or scabs and get in contact with a sexual health clinic

Officials are urging gay and bisexual men to be aware of new lesions, rashes or scabs and get in contact with a sexual health clinic

The infection often starts with small bumps that scab over and are contagious

The infection often starts with small bumps that scab over and are contagious

Last week the CDC took down guidance for people to wear face masks when in countries experiencing a monkeypox outbreak — just 13 hours after it was reported by the media.

At a briefing on Friday Dr Rochelle Walensky, the agency’s director, explained they now thought the virus may only spread through the air when ‘people have sustained face-to-face contact’.

‘[But] all of the cases that we have seen to date in this outbreak have been related to direct contact with patients or with materials that have touched them either through close contact or through bedsheets and what not.’

She added that monkeypox was not thought to ‘linger in the air’ in the same way as Covid, further limiting the chance of catching it through respiration.

The CDC previously said it removed the face masks sentence because it feared this was ‘causing confusion’.