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Monkeypox: Third suspected case in U.S. investigated in Fort Lauderdale

A masked man checks his cellphone
Posed by model (Photo: Shutterstock)

Following the recent diagnosis of monkeypox in a man in Boston, MA, last week, a further case has been diagnosed in New York and now a third suspected case is being investigated in Fort Lauderdale.

“This case is related to international travel, and the person remains isolated,” said Jeremy Redfern, a Florida Department of Health spokesman in Broward County. “At this time, DOH-Broward has not identified any additional cases.”

Specimen samples from the individuals have been sent off to the CDC.

Related: Monkeypox outbreak: Gay men advised to check for rashes

Normally confined to West Africa, outbreaks of the disease have been identified in the last couple of weeks in 11 countries.

There are now 57 confirmed cases in the UK, and health authorities there have said many of them are gay or bi men. A similar pattern has been noted in Spain and Australia.

Monkeypox is not easily spread, but close body contact can transmit the virus. This has led some health officials to issue warnings to gay men to be extra cautious about any rashes or lesions they notice on their bodies.

Belgium has announced it will require close contacts of anyone diagnosed with monkeypox to isolate for 21 days. The UK has recommended the same guidance to those contacted via track and tracing.

President Joe Biden, asked today in Tokyo if he could imagine the US instigating a similar requirement, said he thought it unlikely.

“I just don’t think it rises to the level of the kind of concern that existed with COVID-19, and the smallpox vaccine works for it. But, I think people should be careful,” he said.

The Department of Health in Broward County stressed the infection risk was much lower than a virus such as Covid-19.

“Human-to-human transmission [of monkeypox] generally requires prolonged, face-to-face contact, direct contact with lesion materials, or indirect contact with lesion materials through contaminated items, such as contaminated clothing,” the department said. “Therefore, the risk of exposure remains low.”

However, authorities in the UK and Australia have warned gay men to be alert if they notice any unusual rashes or lesions, especially around their genitals, and to contact a sexual health clinic if they have concerns.

Related: What is Shigella—and why should gay men know about it?

What is monkeypox

Monkeypox is caused by a virus similar to smallpox. Early symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion.

It will often be accompanied by a chickenpox-like rash, with lesions tending to eventually scab over and fall off.

It’s usually a mild, self-limiting illness, and most people will recover within weeks. However, the deadliest variant of the virus can be fatal for up to one in ten of those infected.

The form of the virus currently circulating is believed to be milder, with a fatality rate of less than 1 percent.

Monkeypox is caused by a virus similar to the one that causes smallpox. A mass vaccination program eradicated smallpox in the early 1980s. Because of this, the smallpox vaccine (which is also effective against monkeypox) is no longer routinely given to people. This has prompted some scientists to speculate whether monkeypox could evolve to fill a gap left by the eradicated smallpox.