The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other officials confirmed that a case of monkeypox was recently detected in Maryland, the second time the rare virus has been detected in the United States this year.
The infected individual, who recently traveled to Nigeria, is suffering from mild symptoms and is recovering in isolation, said the Maryland Department of Health this week.
“Public health authorities have identified and continue to follow up with those who may have been in contact with the diagnosed individual,“ said Maryland Deputy Secretary for Public Health Dr. Jinlene Chan. “Our response in close coordination with CDC officials demonstrates the importance of maintaining a strong public health infrastructure.”
Monkeypox, which is in the same family of viruses as smallpox but causes milder symptoms, can be spread via contact with skin lesions or body fluids, or contaminated materials such as clothing. The virus can also be spread via large respiratory droplets at short distances.
Maryland health authorities said that the public doesn’t need to take any special precautions.
“Late yesterday, CDC laboratory scientists confirmed the patient had monkeypox and that the infection matches the strain that has been re-emerging in Nigeria since 2017. The person is currently in isolation in Maryland,” the CDC confirmed in a Wednesday news release.
In elaborating, the federal health agency said that “travelers on the flight to the United States were required to wear masks on the plane as well as in the U.S. airports due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.”
As a result of the COVID-19 protocols, the agency said that the risk of spreading the monkeypox virus on planes is low.
But the “CDC is assessing potential risks to those who may have had close contact with the traveler on the plane and after their arrival in the United States,” according to its statement.
Earlier this year, a case of monkeypox was reported in a man who had then recently visited Nigeria and returned to Texas. At the time, Texas and federal health officials determined the risk posed by the virus was low.
The disease was first reported in people in 1970 before several cases were discovered in the United States in 2003. Most of the identified cases were believed to have had contact with pet prairie dogs infected by African rodents, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Monkeypox has a total fatality rate of around 1 percent, WHO says, although the death rate in the Congo area is higher, killing up to 10 percent of infected people in that region.
U.S. health officials, in contrast, say that the death rate from smallpox is much higher, killing about three in 10 infected people.