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Massachusetts confirms rare monkeypox case, the first in the US this year

Rick Sobey, Boston Herald on

Published in News & Features

BOSTON — A Massachusetts man who recently traveled out of the country has tested positive for the rare monkeypox virus infection and is now being hospitalized in Boston, health officials confirmed on Wednesday as an outbreak emerges in Europe.

This is the first monkeypox infection identified in the U.S. this year, and it comes as the CDC tracks clusters that have been reported in several countries that don’t normally report monkeypox, including the U.K., Portugal, and Spain.

While monkeypox is a potentially serious viral illness, Massachusetts health officials told the public to not be alarmed — stressing that the local case poses no risk to the public.

“I think appropriately people should not be afraid of monkeypox right now,” Paul Biddinger, chief preparedness and continuity officer at Mass General Brigham, said during a press conference about the patient. “The current patient is of no public health risk right now, and people should just be aware of symptoms but not be afraid in any way.”

The European outbreak, however, has been “novel, and that gives us cause for concern,” he said.

The local patient had recently traveled to Canada by private transportation, according to the CDC. The man was admitted to Massachusetts General Hospital on May 12, and is being isolated in the hospital’s Special Pathogens Program.

 

He’s “doing well” and is in stable condition, Biddinger said.

Monkeypox typically begins with flu-like illness and swelling of the lymph nodes, and progresses to a rash on the face and body. Most infections last two to four weeks.

In parts of central and west Africa where monkeypox occurs, people can be exposed through bites or scratches from rodents and small mammals, preparing wild game, or having contact with an infected animal or possibly animal products.

“This was really unusual because the patient had no travel history (to west Africa where monkeypox is known to be endemic), no exposure to animals that would be known to be reservoirs,” said Erica Shenoy, medical director of the Region 1 Emerging Special Pathogens Treatment Center at MGH.

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