Genetic evidence shows that sustained human to human transmission has been occurring since 2017
While the recent tragedy in Uvalde, Texas took much of the focus from the burgeoning monkeypox story, the disease has not disappeared.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified 21 monkeypox cases in 11 states, and two separate strains of the virus causing the disease have been identified.
Genetic analysis has revealed that while most of the cases appear to be closely related to the outbreak in Europe, two patients have versions of the virus that seems to have evolved from a monkeypox case identified in Texas last year.
Of 17 patients for whom the agency has detailed information, all but one were among men who had sex with men; 14 had traveled to other countries in the three weeks before their symptoms began. Three patients were immunocompromised.
C.D.C. researchers have not been able to identify how one patient in an unnamed state acquired the virus. That suggests there is ongoing community transmission at least in that state and possibly others, Dr. Jennifer McQuiston of the C.D.C. told reporters.
The CDC asserts that the identification of the separate stains shows the enhanced surveillance for this pathogen is working.
“I actually think the finding of these two cases with distinct lineages is actually a positive sign that our surveillance network that we’re working to increase, and make sure that people with a rash get tested, is working,” [Jennifer McQuiston, head of the CDC’s monkeypox response] added.
No deaths have been reported in the U.S. so far. Authorities say they believe the risk to the general public is low, since the virus is generally spread through intimate skin-to-skin contact.
However, officials emphasized they did not want to minimize the monkeypox’s threat to those who might catch or spread the disease.
“The rash caused by monkeypox virus can spread widely across the body or present in sensitive areas like the genitalia. It can be really painful and some patients have reported needing prescription pain medicine to manage that pain. The sores can also cause long term scarring on the skin,” said McQuiston.
Questions are now beginning to arise about how long monkeypox actually has been spreading undetected in this country.
Analysis from many more patients will be needed to determine how long monkeypox has been circulating in the U.S. and elsewhere, said Jennifer McQuiston of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“I think it’s certainly possible that there could have been monkeypox cases in the United States that went under the radar previously, but not to any great degree,” she told reporters Friday. However, she added, “there could be community level transmission that is happening” in parts of U.S. where the virus has not yet been identified.
The CDC said it is trying to increase its work on finding infections, and it’s likely more cases will be reported.
Monkeypox is endemic to Central and West Africa. The virus may spread from animals to people through the bite or scratch of an infected animal, by handling wild game, or through the use of products made from infected animals. The CDC also notes that intimate contact is a possible route of exposure:
Monkeypox spreads between people primarily through direct contact with infectious sores, scabs, or body fluids. It also can be spread by respiratory secretions during prolonged, face-to-face contact. Monkeypox can spread during intimate contact between people, including during sex, as well as activities like kissing, cuddling, or touching parts of the body with monkeypox sores. At this time, it is not known if monkeypox can spread through semen or vaginal fluids.
In fact, there is now genetic evidence that sustained human to human transmission has been occurring since 2017.
Now with more than 643 cases of monkeypox in dozens of countries where the virus is not endemic, “the sudden appearance of monkeypox in many countries at the same time suggests there may have been undetected transmission for some time,” World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Wednesday.
The virus has been circulating for decades in some places, including parts of West and Central Africa. In early research posted this week, scientists at the Institute of Evolutionary Biology at the University of Edinburgh described how the genetic pattern they’re seeing suggests that “there has been sustained human to human transmission since at least 2017.”
In that research, genetic sequences showed that the first monkeypox cases in 2022 appear to have descended from an outbreak that resulted in cases in Singapore, Israel, Nigeria and the United Kingdom from 2017 to 2019.
Based on my own analysis of the data, I suspect monkeypox will become a big media story only if it can distract from other Biden administration crises or can be used in some way to help the Democrats.DONATE
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