Georgia has become the ninth state to detect a monkeypox infection, health chiefs revealed Wednesday — as the U.S. tally rose to 18.
Another three cases were spotted over the last 24 hours including a fourth in New York — which has the most cases out of any state — and a third in California.
The Californian patient was a ‘close contact’ of the its first patient in Sacramento, who was diagnosed with the virus after returning from Europe. No further details were given on the other two infections.
Most cases have been detected among gay and bisexual men, with health chiefs often linking them back to international travel.
But a growing number are now in ‘close contacts’ of confirmed cases, suggesting the virus is spreading human-to-human on American soil for the first time since at least 2003.
To limit the spread, Dr Hans Kluge, from the Europe division the World Health Organization, called on people to reduce their number of sexual contacts and said the virus may be difficult to contain.
Global health chiefs were caught off-guard by the outbreak outside West Africa — where it is native — with the virus now detected across more than two dozen nations with 600 confirmed infection, with 70 percent in Europe.
Georgia today became the ninth state to report monkeypox in the outbreak. A fourth case was also reported in New York and a third in California that was in a ‘close contact’ of a previous infection
Cut your number of sexual partners to help fight monkeypox, urges World Health Organization
People should reduce their number of sexual partners to help fight the spread of monkeypox, the World Health Organization has urged.
Dr Hans Kluge, the head of WHO’s European division, has warned the current outbreak of the tropical disease ‘may not be containable’.
He warned Europe had become the new epicentre of the virus, with the outbreak linked to sexual transmission at raves and festivals on the continent.
Dr Kluge insisted the virus ‘will not require the same extensive population measures’ as Covid but said ‘significant and urgent’ action was needed to prevent more cases.
The WHO stopped short of calling for contacts of known cases to be quarantined but called for ‘critical’ twice-daily temperature checks and ‘close monitoring’.
Dr Kluge said that while cases have been concentrated in men who have sex with men, there was nothing stopping it from spreading to other groups.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed the three additional cases in its daily monkeypox dashboard update.
Monkeypox is native to West Africa and typically spreads via physically touching infectious skin lesions that can appear anywhere on the body.
Patients suffer a fever within 21 days of being infected, before developing a rash on their face that spreads to other areas and painful skin lesions.
Most cases are mild and clear up on their own. But some turn severe with the fatality rate of the strain currently circulating in America at about one in 100.
Doctors are currently offering patients antibiotics to help treat the infections.
Stockpiles of a smallpox vaccine — which is believed to work against its close relative monkeypox — are also being made available to bolster immunity in close contacts of patients.
The U.S. has spotted a total of 18 cases to date.
New York City has the most, with four infections, followed by California and Florida which have both detected three cases.
Two have also been spotted in Colorado and Utah, and one each in Georgia, Massachusetts, Virginia and Washington.
Most of the cases are in gay and bisexual men, and can be traced back to international travel to areas currently experiencing an outbreak of the disease.
But health chiefs caution that the virus could spill into other populations if it continues to spread undetected.
Kluge issued a warning to Europe Wednesday — where the outbreak is fiercest — saying ‘significant and urgent’ action was needed to contain the virus — although not on the scale that was needed for Covid.
The chief stopped short of calling for contacts of known cases to be quarantined, but he said it was ‘critical’ for twice-daily temperature checks and close monitoring to be carried out.
The WHO earlier this week upgraded the global threat level to ‘moderate’, warning that community spread could lead to vulnerable patients or children catching the virus, which also spreads from touch, or interaction with contaminated surfaces or clothes.
Experts have previously linked the outbreak to two festivals in Europe: The Gran Canarian pride festival, held between May 5 and 15, and a large-scale fetish festival in Antwerp, which ran from May 5 to May 8.
The growing case numbers come as America gears up for Pride parades this month across the country.
But a WHO adviser has said there is no ‘enhanced’ risk of catching the virus at these events during the outbreak.
On Monday, Andy Seale, from the WHO’s department for HIV, hepatitis and sexually transmitted diseases said there was ‘no enhanced risk’ of catching the virus at pride parades.
He added that condoms would not stop someone from being infected because the skin lesions — through which the virus spreads — open up all over the body.
In Britain, health chiefs are telling people suffering any symptom of the virus such as a rash to abstain from sex and close physical contact.
Once someone clears an infection they are being told to wear a condom for eight weeks ‘as a precaution’. There is no evidence it spreads through semen.
Speaking during the conference, Seale said: ‘From our point of view, we would like to send a message that it is important that people who want to go out and celebrate gay pride LGBTQ+ pride to continue to go and do so.
‘Most of these events are outdoors, they are family friendly.
‘We don’t see any reason to be concerned about enhanced likelihood of transmission in that context because the parties we have bene looking into have been in more enclosed spaces etc.’
In the briefing, Seale also gave advice that wearing a condom would not be enough to stop the virus spreading.
‘We shouldn’t shy away from reminding people that it is still useful to talk about condoms, for example, for protecting people against pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.
‘But for monkeypox, condoms will not provide a layer of protection that’s additional — given the fact that close bodily contact is the main risk factor.’