A Massachusetts resident has been diagnosed with the rare monkeypox virus—marking the first reported monkeypox case in the country this year.
According to the state’s Department of Public Health, the male patient tested positive for the rare infection on Tuesday, shortly after returning from a trip to Canada. The case was confirmed Thursday after follow-up testing by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency is now working with DPH and other local boards to track down any individuals who came into contact with the infected patient.
DPH reports monkeypox is a rare virus infection that is usually limited to west and central African regions. Most patients are exposed to the disease through contact with an infected animal or animal byproducts. The infection reportedly lasts two to four weeks, with the patient exhibited a range of flu-like symptoms as well as swollen lymph nodes and rashes. Experts say the virus is rare, but quite serious, as it’s “been shown to cause death in as many as 1 in 10 persons who contract the disease” in Africa, per the CDC.
However, Massachusetts officials say the confirmed U.S. case does not pose a serious risk to the general public because monkeypox does not easily spread among people. Human-to-human transmission can occur through prolonged face-to-face contact or in an exchange of bodily fluids like mucus or respiratory droplets.
Canadian officials say they have not received any recent reports of monkeypox infections, and are unclear how the patient—who is said to be in good condition—may have contracted the disease. U.S. agencies are now trying to determine if the case is related to a small monkeypox outbreaks in the United Kingdom, Spain, and Portugal.
According to the Associated Press, European investigators say most of the recently confirmed cases have been in gay and bisexual men.
Per the Massachusetts DPH:
Based on findings of the Massachusetts case and the recent cases in the UK, clinicians should consider a diagnosis of monkeypox in people who present with an otherwise unexplained rash and 1) traveled, in the last 30 days, to a country that has recently had confirmed or suspected cases of monkeypox 2) report contact with a person or people with confirmed or suspected monkeypox, or 3) is a man who reports sexual contact with other men. This clinical guidance is consistent with recommendations from UK health officials and US federal health officials, based on identified cases.
There were only two confirmed monkeypox cases in the U.S. last year. One in Texas and the other Maryland. Both cases involved patients who reportedly traveled to Nigeria shortly before they were diagnosed with the infection.