New York investigating possible monkeypox case

It’s been a busy week for New York health officials, as coronavirus subvariants once again push New York City to expose themselves to high levels of risk for transmission of COVID-19, influenza is back and a lesser known (albeit old) health concern is emerging – monkeypox.

On Friday, the New York State Department of Health released information on two possible cases of monkeypox that were under investigation in New York City — after the United States saw its first confirmed case in a Massachusetts resident on Wednesday.

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Public Health Laboratory has ruled out monkeypox in one case after testing the sample, while the other tested positive for orthopoxvirus, the family of viruses to which monkeypox belongs. The state is awaiting official confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and contact tracing for the case.

Monkeypox is similar to smallpox in that it causes lesions all over the body and can lead to serious illness; According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in 10 people who contracted it has died in Africa.

This particular smallpox virus was first discovered in the late 1950s in Africa, and was named after the lab monkeys from which the virus appears to have originated. The first human case was found in 1970.

The first time monkeypox was reported outside of Africa was in 2003, when there were 47 confirmed and probable cases in the United States after patients had contact with domestic prairie dogs; Prairie dogs appear to have contracted the virus by harboring them near small mammals imported from Ghana.

Monkeypox has since been discovered in the United States; There were two cases in the past year, but both patients had recently traveled from Nigeria. State health officials said people often get monkeypox directly through bites or scratches from rodents and small mammals, setting up wild game, or coming into contact with an infected animal or possibly animal products. “Based on previous outbreaks, the virus does not usually spread easily between people,” the state health department said.

But in the Massachusetts case last week, the person traveled from Canada. Also, the CDC said it’s tracking multiple groups of monkeypox that were reported in early to mid-May in many countries that don’t typically report monkeypox, including in Europe.

So is monkeypox something to worry about?

“Based on the limited information available at this time, the risk to the general public appears to be low,” the state health department said Friday.

Monkeypox is a rare virus, and although it can spread through respiratory droplets, contracting it requires very close contact with an infected person for an extended period of time – unlike the more casual way many viruses spread – including the coronavirus. It can also be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact with an infected person as well – making it more likely that it doesn’t spread accidentally.

However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges US health care providers to be vigilant for patients with rashes consistent with monkeypox, regardless of whether or not they have travelled. New Yorkers with influenza-like illness with swollen lymph nodes
And rashes on the face and body should contact a health care provider, state health officials say — especially if they have been in close contact with someone with similar symptoms or have traveled.

The state health commissioner, Dr. Mary T. said: Bassett in a statement. “While a potential case in New York State is awaiting confirmatory testing by our local and federal partners, the department has alerted health care providers in New York State so that they can consider this unusual diagnosis if their patients develop symptoms.”

Last week, the state health department also issued an alert about the spread of the influenza virus again. While cases increased by 25 percent in the first week of May, the data release this week ending May 14 showed a slight decline again.

Influenza was virtually non-existent in New York in the 2020-2021 season as coronavirus protocols limited the spread. The flu caught on in December, but after it started to subside in mid-February — around the time mask mandates were lifted in New York. On Wednesday, the state Department of Health issued an advisory to public and private schools “to remind officials to contact the local health department if they notice increases in school absenteeism due to influenza-like illness (fever with afternoon cough or sore throat) or confirmed influenza outbreaks.”

But what do the coronavirus, influenza, and monkeys have in common? All of the state’s statements on health threats last week indicated one thing – internal disguise can limit all viruses.

“Masks can protect against monkeypox, as well as other viruses circulating in New York City, such as COVID-19,” the city’s health department said in a statement Friday. “The department continues to recommend masks in indoor public spaces.”

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