The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that a US resident tested positive for monkeypox on 18 May, after returning to the US from Canada. However, it confirmed that since then, no new cases have been diagnosed in the country.
The CDC has confirmed that its scientists are collaborating with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to investigate the case further.
The agency said that it is also tracking multiple abnormal clusters of monkeypox which have been reported in the past month in several countries in Europe and North America which do not normally report the disease.
The CDC says symptoms of monkeypox includes a rash involving vesicles (blisters) or pustules that are ‘deep-seated, firm or hard, and well circumscribed’, as well as fevers, chills, or lymphadenopathy.
The disease is typically transmitted through close physical contact, and while there is no cure, symptoms can be alleviated using existing treatments and usually clear up within two to four weeks.
CDC urges healthcare providers to be alert for symptoms
The CDC says that it is currently unclear how patients with confirmed cases were exposed to the disease and urged healthcare providers in the US to be alert for patients who display symptoms consistent with monkeypox, regardless of recent travel or perceived risk factors.
However, key indices for suspicion should include patients with a recent travel history to central or west African countries, or other areas with recent reports of monkeypox cases, as well as sexually active individuals who manifest lesions in the genital or perianal regions.
Monkeypox is considered endemic in 11 African nations. However, as of 21 May the World Health Organization (WHO) has received reports of 92 lab-confirmed cases and 28 suspected cases from 12 countries where the disease is not typically found.
One notable cluster of cases is in the UK, where the first European cases were reported on 6 May. The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has reported that it has detected 20 cases in England the first case. Austria, Israel and Switzerland reported their first cases over the weekend, while Canada, Italy, Sweden, Spain and Portugal have also reported cases.
Previous cases of monkeypox were reported in the UK in 2018
While the recent wave of monkeypox cases outside of the typical endemic region is notable, it is not the first occurrence. In 2018, two cases were diagnosed in England, with health officials stating at the time that both patients had recently travelled to Nigeria – one of several countries in which monkeypox is considered endemic.
Nigeria eased Covid testing requirements for fully vaccinated international travellers on 4 April 2022, enabling them to visit the country without carrying a Covid-19 PCR test, while the UK removed the last of its Covid border restrictions on 15 March. The UK also has a significant population of Nigerian-born residents, with one estimate by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) in 2019 putting the figure at around 215,000 people.
With the end of coronavirus restrictions on international travel, it is possible that cases of diseases considered endemic to certain regions will increase elsewhere, as people plan ‘revenge travel’ trips to catch up on missed holidays, or visit previously isolated relatives overseas.