Monkeypox is likely to spread from person to person by close, intimate, or sexual contact with someone who has an active rash, senior U.S. health officials said, according to a Bloomberg report.
It’s worth noting that unlike the Covid-19 virus, which spreads through the air and respiratory droplets, the spread of monkeypox requires much closer contact, such as sharing bedding, clothing or a toothbrush with an infected person would create a higher risk, officials said on the call.
Notably, the only U.S. case of the virus usually contracted from infected animals has no known link to Africa, where the disease is most commonly found, said the officials, who spoke without being identified as a condition of participating in the call. While the risk to the general public is low, health care workers are being alerted to monitor possible cases and wear protective gear when necessary, they said.
New and suspected cases of monkeypox have emerged in recent days in Europe and North America. The rare and potentially deadly cousin of the smallpox virus is traditionally confined to regions of Africa, but health officials are concerned about its widespread occurrence.
The World Health Organization said it has confirmed 37 cases and is investigating 71 worldwide. Most of those detected so far are men who have sex with men, health officials said. A WHO advisory group on infections with pandemic and endemic potential met Friday to discuss monkeypox, which has been a priority pathogen for the agency for years, according to a spokesman.
As the summer months approach, more events and social situations may provide opportunities for the virus to spread, senior U.S. health officials said on the call. They also said there are ample supplies of an antiviral drug that fights monkeypox, Tpoxx from SIGA Technologies Inc. in the national stockpile.
Monkeypox is significantly less dangerous than smallpox. Symptoms usually include fever, chills, and rashes or lesions on the face or genitals. The currently circulating strain is believed to kill about 1% of those infected, although no one has died in this current outbreak.