Monkeypox can spread through the air but only through ‘sustained’ face-to-face contact with an infected person, the director of the CDC revealed Friday as the national infection tally hit 49 cases and officials in Hawaii say they fear the tropical disease is ‘in our community’.
In a briefing Friday Dr Rochelle Walensky, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said monkeypox was being passed on through physical contact with symptomatic patients and by touching their clothing and bedding.
But attempting to clear up whether face masks are needed to avoid catching the rash-causing virus, the epidemiologist explained the rash-causing virus would not ‘linger in the air’ like Covid.
‘The disease is not spread through casual conversations, passing others in a grocery store, or touching things like door-knobs,’ she said. ‘All of the case we have seen to date in this outbreak have been related to direct contact.’
During the conference health officials also called on Americans with any sexually transmitted infection — including syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia — to get tested for monkeypox.
They warned many patients were experiencing rashes and sores on the genitals and anus that looked like STIs. Several cases of co-infection with monkeypox and a sexually transmitted disease have also been recorded.
America’s monkeypox cases tally rose to 49 today with Rhode Island becoming the fifteenth state to report a case of the disease. Officials in Hawaii — which reported its third case on Thursday — are now warning it may already be transmitting unchecked in their community.
The update on how the virus transmits came after it posted guidance for people to wear face masks in countries experiencing outbreaks, and then u-turned just 13 hours after it was reported by the media.
A total of 49 cases of monkeypox have now been recorded across 15 states in America and Washington D.C. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says most cases are in people who recently returned from abroad
Dr Rochelle Walensky (left), who heads up the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that monkeypox could only spread through the air during prolonged face to face contact. Dr Jennifer McQuiston (right), who is heading up the agency’s response, said most cases were in people who had recently traveled
During the briefing today, Walensky stressed that the virus was only transmitting through the air via large droplets expelled from infected people that quickly fall to the ground.
‘It may spread through respiratory secretions when people have sustained face-to-face contact,’ she said. ‘[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.’
US army reports first monkeypox case in soldier in Germany
The U.S. army has reported its first case of monkeypoxat a base in Germany.
The soldier — who has not been named — tested positive for the tropical disease at the facility in Stuttgart, in the country’s south-west.
Military officials have now quarantined the individual in their quarters until symptoms subside.
German authorities have been informed of the case, and contact tracing is underway.
The Stuttgart base is a garrison for about 23,000 soldiers.
The U.S. army base in Stuttgart, where the case was reported
Revealing the case navy Capt. William Speaks said: ‘We can confirm that a duty service member from the Suttgart military community recently tested positive for monkeypox.
‘The individual was seen and treated at the Stuttgart Army Health clinic and is currently in isolation.’
Germany has detected 165 cases of monkeypox to date, local officials say.
‘Monkeypox is not thought to linger in the air.
‘When we consider airborne transmission at the CDC particles that are expelled can linger in the air for a long period of time.
‘We are not seeing evidence of that with monkeypox, so it really is going through close face-to-face and skin contact.’
She added: ‘This disease may present in a similar way to other sexually transmitted infections.
‘There have also been cases of co-infection with monkeypox and others including syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia.
‘We are telling healthcare providers to evaluate patients for all STIs in addition to monkeypox, and that they should not rule it out just because someone has monkeypox or another STI.’
Medical literature says that people infected with monkeypox experience flu-like symptoms within the first 21 days of catching the virus, followed by a rash that appears on the face before spreading to the rest of the body.
But this is rarely being observed in the current outbreak, with patients instead seeing rashes emerge on the genital areas before suffering any flu-like symptoms.
Co-infections have also been recorded alongside diseases like syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia.
Health officials also revealed they had distributed more than 1,400 vaccines against the virus to states from their stockpile of more than a million doses. Another 300,000 doses are expected to arrive in the coming weeks.
But some experts have raised concerns that the country may not have enough jabs because if the outbreak becomes more widespread there may not be enough to jab the entire country.
America recorded eight cases of the virus between Wednesday afternoon and Friday morning, as the scale of the outbreak across the country continues to grow.
About three in four cases are currently linked to international travel, including to Europe, while others are linked to someone who has had close contact with a known case.
But there are ‘several’ patients across multiple states who have tested positive despite not recently travelling or having contact with a known case.
Dr Jennifer McQuiston, who is leading the CDC’s response to the outbreak, said it was likely the case that they acquired the infection from someone who had recently traveled but that this first case was yet to be spotted.
She added: ‘I can tell you that right now we don’t have an area that seems to be having an urban outbreak. There is no one area where it looks like there is a lot of community transmission.
‘But this could change. We need to make sure our testing is increasing and ready to catch that when it happens.’
America has done just 300 tests for orthopox viruses — the family that includes monkeypox — since the outbreak began, despite having more than 69 labs available to carry out thousands of swabs a day.
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
Health officials are calling on states to send more samples to labs, but states are complaining that the process is ‘too complicated’ because after going to these labs the swabs must go to the CDC for confirmation.
New York reported two new monkeypox cases yesterday, while Illinois and Florida reported one and Rhode Island revealed its first infection that they said may be ‘linked to travel to Massachusetts’.
Hawaii also reported its third case in a week in an individual who had not recently traveled, prompting officials to warn that the tropical disease may be spreading undetected in the archipelago.
Dr Elizabeth Char, health director for the state, said in a conference yesterday: ‘[The most recent case] does not have a travel history. The reason that’s significant is that it tells us that monkeypox is probably in our community.’
It came after the CDC backtracked on advice calling on travelers to wear face masks to protect themselves against monkeypox because it was ‘causing confusion’.
Late Monday the agency deleted this guidance from its website, with a spokeswoman telling DailyMail.com that it was removed because they were concerned it had ’caused confusion’.
They stressed that the advice to wear coverings was ‘specifically for people who are traveling’ rather than the general public, and added that any future updates would be accompanied by a public announcement.
The CDC had quietly added advice to wear coverings to its Level 2 travel alert — encouraging ‘enhanced precautions’ abroad — six days ago. It was only picked up by Fox News late on Monday, alongside other outlets including CNBC and this website.
An expert said it was ‘unfortunate’ that the CDC had put up and removed the advice, because it was bound to further harm public trust in the agency.