The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed a case of monkeypox in a Maryland patient returning from a trip in Nigeria late Tuesday.
The CDC said it is coordinating with international health partners, the airline, and state and local health officials in the DC area to inform passengers and others who may have come into contact with the infected person.
However, with masks required on the flight because of COVID-19, the CDC said scientists think the risk of the monkeypox virus spreading through respiratory droplets on the plane is “low.”
Still, the federal agency said it is “assessing potential risks” among patients’ close contacts, both during the flight and after their arrival in the U.S.
The patient developed mild symptoms, was not hospitalized and is in isolation, according to the Maryland Department of Health (MDH), who said the individual and all exposed contacts will be monitored for 21 days.
“Our response in close coordination with CDC officials demonstrates the importance of maintaining a strong public health infrastructure,” MDH Deputy Health Secretary Jinlene Chan said in a statement.
The monkeypox strain identified in the Maryland patient matches a version of the virus that has reappeared in Nigeria as of 2017.
Since the virus’s resurgence, 218 cases have been reported in Nigeria and an additional eight have emerged among international travelers from the country, including one in Texas earlier this year.
The CDC describes monkeypox as a “rare but potentially serious” disease, noting that it begins with flu-like symptoms and swelling of the lymph nodes before a rash appears over the face and body. The agency called on health care providers to keep an eye out for “smallpox virus-like lesions”, especially in people traveling to Nigeria, and to immediately report suspected cases to authorities.