Washington and California report suspected Monkeypox cases as US outbreak widens

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Health officials in California and Washington state say they have detected suspected Monkeypox cases in two patients who recently returned from travelling overseas.

A presumptive Monkeypox infection was reported in Sacramento County, California, on Tuesday, the sixth US state to report a case.

“There is minimal risk to the general public,” Sacramento County Public Health Officer Dr Olivia Kasirye told reporters during a Tuesday briefing, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Dr Kasirye did not reveal the patient’s gender or age, or where they had travelled to. The tests would be sent to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) laboratory for further investigation, she said.

On Monday evening, officials in King County, Washington, said a man had registered a positive test to the family of viruses that Monkeypox belongs to.

In both cases, the patients did not require hospitalisation and were isolating at home, officials said.

King County officials said on Monday night they were contacting close contacts of the infected man that they described as being “potential low risk exposures”.

Testing carried out at the Washington State Public Health Laboratory showed the man had tested positive to the family of viruses known as orthopoxviral.

Further testing will be carried out by the CDC.

There has been one confirmed case of Monkeypox in the United States in a Massachusetts man.

Suspected cases have also been reported in Utah, Florida and New York.

Seattle & King County public health official Jeff Duchin said in a statement there was no evidence that Monkeypox was spreading locally, but didn’t rule out the possibility.

“People should understand that the disease can affect anyone and those who are most at risk are those who have had close physical contact with someone with monkeypox. The risk is not limited to men who have sex with men,” Dr Duchin said.

Monkeypox can cause severe rashes and blisters in infected patients (Getty)
Monkeypox can cause severe rashes and blisters in infected patients (Getty)

World Health Organisation (WHO) official David Heymann said on Monday the leading theory on how the current outbreak is being spread was sexual contact among gay and bisexual men who attended two recent raves in Spain and Belgium.

“We know monkeypox can spread when there is close contact with the lesions of someone who is infected, and it looks like sexual contact has now amplified that transmission,” Dr Heymann said.

President Joe Biden delivered a more reassuring message to reporters in Tokyo on Monday, a day after he had said “everybody should be concerned” about the disease.

He said the smallpox vaccine was effective against Monkeypox, and the US has sufficient doses on hand to deal with an outbreak.