As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have begun tracking the monkeypox virus, as several cases have been reported in countries that don’t typically report cases of the virus, including the US, UK, and Canada. According to the CDC, as of June 9, 2022, there are 45 confirmed cases of monkeypox in the US. While less severe than smallpox, the symptoms of monkeypox are similar, and anyone who comes in contact with someone who has the virus is at risk.
The monkeypox virus is an orthopoxvirus that is zoonotic, i.e., it is a disease that can be transmitted from animals to humans. The animals that typically carry this virus are found near tropical rain forests and include squirrels, rodents, and some species of monkey. Human-to-human transmission usually occurs through contact with bodily fluids, lesions on the skin, or on internal mucosal surfaces. Generally, those with the disease describe close and sustained physical contact with other individuals who are infected, but the CDC is continuing to study other possible modes of transmission. The CDC recommends that those infected with monkeypox wear a mask when around others if close contact is likely. Even so, this transmission is usually limited, with the longest documented chain of infection being six links away from the original patient.
Currently, the CDC is working with local health care professionals to identify individuals who may be carrying the virus or who have been in contact with those who have tested positive. The CDC is also urging all health care providers in the US to remain on alert for anyone displaying symptoms consistent with monkeypox—in some cases, symptoms may not become apparent until 21 days after infection.