Health officials in New York City are reporting a total of seven cases of monkeypox, a rare disease that has become a growing problem in the US after an outbreak in Europe.
The Department of Health announced late Friday that it had identified two additional cases, which are yet to be confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Health officials said individuals who have recently traveled to Portugal, Spain, the UK, Canada or Central and West Africa may be more likely to have been exposed to monkey pox. They also named men who have had sex with men as high-risk groups.
City health officials’ warning comes amid rising US cases. The CDC has found more than 20 cases in 11 states so far. Most involve men who have had sex with other men. The disease is endemic in West and Central Africa, but an outbreak outside those areas of more than 700 cases, which began in May, has alarmed the public health community.
At a briefing on Friday, CDC officials said they expected the number of cases to increase.
“There could be community-level transmission, which is why we really want to increase our surveillance efforts,” Jennifer McQuiston, a CDC official, said according to a Politico story.
Nevertheless, the CDC currently classifies the risk to Americans as low. As part of its public health response, the Biden administration has distributed 1,200 doses of vaccine to several states for people at high risk.
Symptoms for monkeypox include fever, headache, and body aches, followed by a telltale rash with lesions on the face or body, including the genitals.
The disease is related to smallpox, but less contagious. It is rarely fatal. Treatment may include an antiviral drug developed for smallpox, but most patients recover on their own.
Health officials are asking people with symptoms to isolate themselves immediately and contact their healthcare provider.