First U.S. Monkeypox Case Confirmed, with Gay Men Especially at Risk

Massachusetts Confirms First U.S. Case of Monkeypox Virus
Massachusetts Confirms First U.S. Case of Monkeypox Virus

Health officials in Massachusetts have confirmed a single case of the monkeypox virus in a man who recently traveled to Canada. Recent outbreaks of the virus, which is endemic to central and western Africa but rare elsewhere, have occurred in the U.K., Spain, and Portugal. The unidentified adult male in Massachusetts is the first confirmed case of the virus in the U.S. this year.

“The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) today confirmed a single case of monkeypox virus infection in an adult male with recent travel to Canada,” the department said in a statement released Wednesday.

The department said they are working closely with the CDC and other relevant partners to conduct contact tracing and prevent the further spread of the virus.

While this is the first confirmed case this year in the U.S., outbreaks have occurred across Europe. The U.K. has reported nine cases of the monkeypox virus, with the first case occurring in a man who had recently traveled to Nigeria. Reuters reported Spain earlier today confirmed seven cases of the virus, while Portugal confirmed a total of 14 cases.

Gay, bisexual, and men who have sex with men are particularly at risk, as evidenced by the recent outbreak in the U.K. which occurred amongst men in the LGBTQ+ community.

“The evidence suggests that there may be transmission of the monkeypox virus in the community, spread by close contact,” Dr. Susan Hopkins, Chief Medical Adviser at the U.K. Health Security Agency, said in a statement released Monday. “We are particularly urging men who are gay and bisexual to be aware of any unusual rashes or lesions and to contact a sexual health service without delay.”

Monkeypox is a zoonotic orthopoxvirus that appears similar to smallpox, although significantly less deadly. Most outbreaks in Europe and elsewhere in the Western Hemisphere are related to the exotic pet trade and international travel.

Initial symptoms of Monkeypox virus include fever, headache, myalgia, fatigue, and swelling of the lymph nodes. After one to two days, lesions may develop in first the mouth and later on the face and extremities like the palms and soles. The rash may further spread, and the number of lesions can range from just a few to thousands.

Despite its name, rodents are believed to be the natural reservoir for the Monkeypox virus. Infections have been observed in squirrels, rats, mice, monkeys, prairie dogs, and humans.

Health officials in Massachusetts stressed that transmission of the virus usually involves contact with an infected animal and that human transmission is extremely rare.

“The case poses no risk to the public, and the individual is hospitalized and in good condition,” they said in their statement.