Two possible cases of monkeypox have been investigated by the New York City Health Department, as the officials look to identify what could be the city's first potential case of the contagious disease.
Specimens from two patients were tested, with the health department saying Friday that one of the cases has already been ruled out for possibly being monkeypox after preliminary testing. The other case was positive for Orthopoxvirus, which is the family of viruses to which monkeypox belongs.
However, the health department added that the case has not yet been confirmed to be monkeypox. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is handling the confirmation testing.
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The patient, who had an illness consistent with monkeypox, is in isolation and is being cared for at NYC Health + Hospitals / Bellevue, according to health officials. The health department said the case is being handled as a presumed positive until it is confirmed. Contact tracing is also underway.
Both the city and state health departments said the risk to the general public appears to be low at this time.
"Reports of suspected cases of monkeypox in the United States and elsewhere are concerning," said New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett. "While a possible case in New York State awaits 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 present with symptoms."
Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by infection with a virus that is related to those that cause smallpox and cowpox. It was first discovered in 1958, when outbreaks occurred in colonies of monkeys kept for research -- resulting in its name. (What you need to know about monkeypox.)
The first case in a human was reported in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which still has the majority of infections. Other African countries where it has been found: Cameroon, Central African Republic, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Liberia, Nigeria, Republic of the Congo and Sierra Leone.
What Is Monkeypox?
Monkeypox - which presents itself as a flu-like illness accompanied by lymph-node swelling and rash on the face and body -- is uncommon in the U.S.
Human symptoms of monkeypox are similar to but milder than the symptoms of smallpox, the CDC says. Monkeypox starts off with fever, headache, muscle aches, and exhaustion. Monkeypox also causes lymph nodes to swell, something that smallpox does not. The incubation period is usually 7−14 days but can range from 5−21 days.
Typically cases recorded outside of Africa have been linked to international travel or animals that have been imported.
According to the CDC, monkeypox in the U.S. is very rare since it does not occur naturally in the country. However, the CDC notes that cases in the U.S. have happened which were associated with international travel or importing animals from areas where the disease is more common.
However, health officials say the risk to the general population remains low.