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Rare monkeypox case identified in Massachusetts after European outbreak

The first U.S. case of monkeypox this year has been reported in Massachusetts after a small outbreak of the viral disease reported in several European countries.

A man who had recently traveled to Canada has been hospitalized with a viral infection at Massachusetts General Hospital. Testing completed Tuesday confirmed that the man was infected with monkeypox, a rare but potentially serious viral disease that causes flu-like symptoms and swelling of lymph nodes before progressing to a widespread rash on the face and body, the Massachusetts Department of Health
said.

“DPH is working closely with the CDC, relevant local boards of health, and the patient’s health care providers to identify individuals who may have been in contact with the patient while he was infectious. This contact tracing approach is the most appropriate given the nature and transmission of the virus,” the agency said. “The case poses no risk to the public, and the individual is hospitalized and in good condition.”

Monkeypox is a disease that is native to parts of central and west Africa, where people may be exposed to the virus through bites or scratches from animals. The virus does not spread easily between people, but transmission can occur through contact with body fluids, monkeypox sores, or through respiratory droplets following prolonged face-to-face contact, officials said.

This was the first monkeypox case to be identified in the U.S. in 2022. Two previous cases were reported last year in Texas and Maryland, in patients who had each traveled to Nigeria.

There have been nine reported cases of monkeypox in the United Kingdom, mostly identified in men who have sex with other men, according to U.K. health officials. A total of 68 cases have been reported in Europe, including in England, Spain, and Portugal, NPR reports.

“This [outbreak] is rare and unusual,” said Susan Hopkins, the chief medical adviser for the U.K. Health Security Agency in a statement Monday.

“Exactly where and how they [the people] acquired their infections remains under urgent investigation,” the agency said.

Officials in the U.K. are perplexed because the virus seems to be spreading among people who have not had contact with anyone who has traveled to Africa.

“What is even more bizarre is finding cases that appear to have acquired the infection via sexual contact,” said UKHSA epidemiologist Mateo Prochazka in a tweet. “This is a novel route of transmission that will have implications for outbreak response and control.”