The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning US residents about a possible increase in mpox, formerly known as monkeypox, this spring and summer, according to a memo from the health agency.
The increase may come as people leave their homes in favor of crowded festivals and events, the health agency said Monday.
In fact, the CDC is looking at 12 confirmed mpox cases and one possible case in the Chicago area. The cases were reported between April 17 and May 5 to the Chicago Department of Public Health.
The Chicago cases were reported by the CDC days after the World Health Organization said the mpox public health emergency Finished.
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What is mpox, formerly known as monkeypox?
Mpox is an uncommon disease triggered by an infection from the mpox virus and, in rare cases, can be fatal, the CDC says.
The disease was known as monkeypox, but the World Health Organization renamed it to remove the stigma associated with the disease in monkeys. (Monkeys don’t spread the virus, but it was first identified in them decades ago, hence the name.)
A global mpox outbreak began in May 2022, and by May 10, more than 30,000 cases had been reported in the United States. In July 2022, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declared an mpox global emergency.
Mpox cases are down but may not stay that way, CDC says
Cases of mpox peaked in August and have declined since then, but “the outbreak is not over,” the CDC said Monday.
Referring to the cluster of cases in Chicago, the CDC said they were all among symptomatic men. None of the people involved were hospitalized.
The CDC also said among the 13 confirmed or probable cases in the Chicago area:
- Nine of the 13 were among men who received multiple doses of the vaccine.
- Nine were non-Hispanic white men, two were non-Hispanic Black men, and two were Asian men.
- The median age was 34 (between 24 and 46 years old).
- Four people recently traveled to places including New York City, New Orleans and Mexico.
Experts from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago urged people in the area to be cautious.
“Clearly, this gives us pause that vaccine immunity may not last in some patients despite full vaccination,” said Dr. Alexandre Carvalho, an infectious disease fellow at Northwestern, in a news release. “People will probably let their guards down in this first post-pandemic summer, go out to meet others, have fun. However, with the virus spreading, we must encourage people to be careful and practice of safe sex.”
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What are the symptoms of mpox?
Symptoms include a rash, possibly on the hands, feet, chest, face, mouth and near the genitals, the CDC says on its website. The said the agency mpox incubation period is three to 17 days, and during this time, people will not have symptoms and may feel OK.
The rash begins with the appearance of pimples or blisters and can be itchy and painful. Before the patient gets better, the rash goes through several stages, the CDC says, including scabbing.
Some people also have flu-like symptoms before the rash appears, the CDC says, while others may develop a rash first and then suffer other symptoms.
According to the CDC, other symptoms include:
- Swollen lymph nodes
- muscle pain and back pain
- Respiratory symptoms such as sore throat, nasal congestion or cough
Patients may experience some symptoms but not all, the agency said.
How long do symptoms last, and how is the disease transmitted?
Once a person has symptoms, they can spread mpox, the CDC says. Spreading may continue until the rash is completely healed.
The CDC also mentioned new data which shows that as of February 2023, some people can spread mpox one to four days before their symptoms start.
“There is currently no evidence to show that people who never develop symptoms spread the virus to other people,” the CDC said.
What should I do if I think I have mpox?
The CDC says people who believe they have the disease or have been in contact with someone who has tested positive should contact a doctor. From there, the doctor can determine if they need to be tested.
Until that happens, the CDC recommends avoiding close contact such as sex until they are seen by a doctor.
For those without health insurance, public health clinics are an option.
What the CDC says about mpox vaccines
The CDC says it does not recommend routine vaccination against mpox for the general public and instead urges health care providers to offer it to people at high risk for exposure to the disease.
Those at higher risk include people who have been exposed to someone who has tested positive or who have had sexual contact in the past two weeks with someone who has been diagnosed with mpox.
The CDC also says that the list of potential high-risk mpox patients includes gay men, bisexual people, men who have sex with men and transgender or non-binary people who have been diagnosed with sexually transmitted disease in the past six months.
People who have sex in commercial sex places and sex workers are also at risk, the CDC says.
“To help prevent another outbreak in the spring and summer months, the CDC urges clinicians to be alert for new cases of mpox and to encourage vaccination for people at risk,” the CDC said in announcement this Monday.
“If mpox is suspected, test whether the patient has been previously vaccinated or has had mpox. Clinicians should also familiarize themselves with mpox symptoms, specimen collection, laboratory testing procedures, and treatment options .