A Maryland resident who recently returned to the country on a flight from Nigeria has tested positive for monkey pox, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Wednesday. It is the second confirmed case of the rare disease in the US since an outbreak in 2003 infected 43 people.
The infected person experiences mild symptoms. They will not be hospitalized but will remain in isolation in Maryland, the Maryland Department of Health said in a press release. The CDC said lab tests confirmed the same strain of the virus that has been resurfacing in Nigeria since 2017. The Nigerian strain is generally less severe, the state health department said.
“Public health authorities have identified and are continuing to contact those who may have been in contact with the person diagnosed,” said Maryland Department of Health Deputy Secretary of Health, Dr. Jinlene Chan, in a statement. “Our response in close coordination with CDC officials demonstrates the importance of maintaining a strong public health infrastructure.”
Although the disease can spread through respiratory droplets, the CDC said the risk is low, as passengers on the flight with the infected person were required to wear masks. The state health department said no special precautions are recommended for the general public.
Monkeypox, which belongs to the same family of viruses as smallpox, is a very rare but potentially deadly viral infection that begins with flu-like symptoms and progresses to a rash on the body, according to the CDC. The illness usually lasts two to four weeks. It is also spread through direct contact with bodily fluids or skin lesions, or through contaminated materials such as bedding. Those who show no symptoms are unable to transmit the virus.
U.S. health care providers are urged by the CDC to be on the lookout for poxvirus-like lesions in humans, especially among travelers returning from Central or West Africa. The CDC said clinicians should immediately report suspected cases of monkeypox to appropriate health authorities.
Prior to this case, human monkeypox infections have only been documented outside of Africa on six separate occasions, according to the CDC.
In July, a resident of Dallas, Texas, who had recently returned from Nigeria tested positive for monkeypox in the country’s first confirmed case since an outbreak nearly 20 years ago. More than 200 people who may have been in contact with the infected person were asked to monitor their health for 21 days after diagnosis. After the monitoring period ended, no additional cases were identified, the CDC said.
In 2003, 47 people got sick after imported African rodents infected prairie dogs with monkeypox, which then infected humans, the CDC said. It was the first time that people outside Africa were infected. The outbreak prompted government officials in 15 states to search for infected prairie dogs. As a result, importing African rodents into the US was banned.