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Maryland reports first presumed case of monkeypox virus; resident is said to be in isolation with mild symptoms

The first suspected Maryland case of human monkeypox, a rare but contagious infection that has emerged in the United States, has been identified by the state health department.

A state resident presumed to have the infection showed mild symptoms and did not require hospital care, the Maryland Department of Health said Thursday. The person is in isolation and waiting for test results to confirm an infection. Human monkeypox is a virus that causes symptoms similar to smallpox, although typically less severe.

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The health department provided no other details about the individual, including where in the state they reside or personal information such as age or gender.

The risk of contracting human monkeypox is low, according to the health department, and no health precautions are recommended for the general public.

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The U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed fewer than 100 cases in 20 states in the current outbreak, first reported in May.

People who have had close physical contact with a symptomatic person are most at risk of being infected, according to the CDC.

The virus can be spread through direct contact with skin lesions or body fluids, or with contaminated materials such as clothing or linens, according to the CDC. It also can be spread by respiratory droplets, likely from face-to-face contact.

Symptoms can include fever, chills, swelling of lymph nodes, and a distinctive pox-like rash that often starts on the face or hands and spreads to other parts of the body, according to the CDC.

While people typically contract monkeypox by touching infected animals, in this outbreak, people are becoming infected primarily through sexual and social networks.

The majority of infections have been in men who have sex with other men, said Dr. Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security at the Bloomberg School of Public Health.

People are getting rashes near their genitals, which is causing clinicians to misdiagnose monkeypox as a sexually transmitted disease and contributing to the ability of the virus to spread undetected, Adalja said.

Symptoms typically appear one to two weeks after exposure and clear up within two to four weeks.

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“What we’re seeing is this virus is really taking advantage of the close contacts within the sexual, social network. So I think that the risk to the general public is low,” Adalja said. “But it’s important to be aware of it, especially if you’re in contact with somebody that might have monkeypox. But it’s not something that is very contagious. It requires close contact. It’s not like a respiratory virus.”

COVID-19 is a respiratory virus that spreads easily by respiratory droplets.

People with monkeypox symptoms who have traveled to parts of Europe with reported infections or to Central and West African countries a month before their symptoms began should seek medical care, according to the health department.

The virus is not prevalent in monkeys. However, it was first discovered in 1958 among a group of monkeys being kept for research in a Danish laboratory. A child in the Democratic Republic of Congo became the first human case in 1970. The World Health Organization is in the process of establishing a new name for the virus.

It’s rare for monkeypox to appear outside countries in Africa, where the virus is endemic, meaning it’s found with some regularity. The United States does not normally experience monkeypox cases, but it’s been spreading since the first domestic case was identified in May.

Monkeypox cases also have been reported in Canada, Portugal, Spain and parts of Europe. No deaths have been associated with the outbreak.

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There were two confirmed U.S. monkeypox cases in 2021 associated with travel. In 2003, six states reported 47 monkeypox cases associated with touching infected pet prairie dogs, which was the first time human monkeypox was seen outside Africa. The prairie dogs were infected after being housed near small mammals imported from Ghana, according to the CDC.


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