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Monkeypox cases are expected to rise, CDC says

Georgia reported its first potential case of monkeypox June 1
Credit: AP
This 2003 electron microscope image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows mature, oval-shaped monkeypox virions, left, and spherical immature virions, right, obtained from a sample of human skin associated with the 2003 prairie dog outbreak. Monkeypox, a disease that rarely appears outside Africa, has been identified by European and American health authorities in recent days. (Cynthia S. Goldsmith, Russell Regner/CDC via AP)

ATLANTA — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expects to confirm more cases of monkeypox, but it still considers the virus a low public health risk. At least one case is probable in a metro Atlanta man according to the Georgia Department of Public Health.

The CDC said there were nearly two dozen Orthopox cases nationwide, 17 of which were considered monkeypox. The rare condition causes a rash and blisters on the skin, along with fever, chills, fatigue and muscle aches. It is transmitted through close contact with someone else who has the virus.

"We don’t want to minimize this condition," Capt. Jennifer McQuiston, Deputy Director of the Division of High Consequence Pathogens and Pathology at the CDC, said. "The rash caused by monkeypox could spread widely across the body or present in sensitive areas. It can be really painful, and some patients have reported needing prescription medicine to manage that pain.”

The CDC traced the current US monkeypox outbreak to a Massachusetts man on May 4. Before, there had been several cases reported in Africa and Europe. By May 17, the CDC initiated an emergency response to monkeypox cases, working abroad and in the US to try and tamp down on cases and prevent spread. 

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On June 1, Georgia reported its first case of orthopox in a Metro-Atlanta man who traveled internationally, and the CDC is still testing to confirm if he does have monkeypox. The Department of Public Health said it was conducting contact tracing and will continue to monitor the individual.

"The cases reported in the US are mostly among gay, bisexual or other men who have sex with men," McQuiston said. "In addition to the broad outreach efforts, we're also focusing efforts to raise awareness within the LGBTQ community."

Officials with the White House and CDC Emergency response team briefed media members Friday, saying they're taking a three-step approach in combatting the spread of monkeypox. More than 100 orthopox PCR tests have been administered, with the capacity to perform more than one-thousand tests per day per Dr. Raj Panjabi, senior director for Global Health Security & Biodefense at The White House. As more tests are conducted, the CDC expects more cases to be confirmed.

RELATED: CDC confirms first potential case of monkeypox in Georgia

“We’re focused on the current scale of the outbreak, and we have concurred that we have sufficient vaccine and we’re not in the business of prediction," Panjabi said. "We’re in the business of planning."

The CDC also monitors people with symptoms who have had close contact with other monkeypox patients. The goal is to prevent transmission as soon as possible. 

Finally, the CDC gives vaccines and treatments to those with high-risk exposure. So far, officials said they had delivered 1,200 vaccines and more than 100 antiviral treatments for those dealing with monkeypox. No one has died from the virus in the United States. 

“We have enough vaccine on hand to manage the current outbreak," Dawn O'Connell, assistant secretary for preparedness and response with the Department of Health and Human Services, said. “While we need to remain vigilant and seek to contain the spread of monkeypox, the good news is that we already have the vaccines and treatments needed to respond.”

Health officials said all monkeypox patients are either in recovery or have already recovered. However, they advised anyone with rashes consistent with the virus to remain home. Medical experts and researchers are currently working to figure out how the virus has evolved. So far, through genetic sequencing, the CDC has noted two genetically district variants during the latest monkeypox outbreak in the US.

"We aspire for the following: to be empathy-based, equity-based, science-based and to be transparency-based," Panjabi said. 

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