US health officials confirmed on Friday (16) that a traveler traveling from Nigeria to the state of Texas had been diagnosed with “Monkey Pox”, a rare and serious tropical disease that can be fatal.
This is the first case of the disease diagnosed in the United States in nearly two decades.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a public health research agency affiliated with the National Department of Health, and the Texas State Department of Health, the patient, who is a resident of the United States and has not been identified, in the city of Dallas, is in isolation. and is hospitalized in stable condition.
“CDC is working with the airline and state and local health officials to contact travelers and others,” the agency said in a statement.
The patient traveled on two flights. From Lagos (Nigeria) to Atlanta, Georgia, starting on July 8 to July 9, and from Atlanta to Dallas on July 9.
“Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, passengers were required to wear masks on these flights as well as at US airports. Thus, it is believed that there is a risk of monkeypox infection through respiratory droplets on planes and airports. less,” the CDC said.
The agency said it was assessing potential risks to people who had close contact with the passenger on the planes and elsewhere. These people are being interviewed by health officials.
“We trust federal, state and local medical professionals working to make sure this virus is contained,” Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson wrote on Twitter.
In a statement, Dallas County Health Department director Philip Huang said there was no cause for alarm. “There is little risk to the general public,” Huang said.
The infected passenger was at the Atlanta (above) and Dallas airports; Due to the preventive measures taken by Covid-19, it is believed that the risk of it infecting others is low – Photo: Reuters via BBC
According to the CDC, “monkey smallpox is in the family of viruses similar to smallpox, but it causes a milder infection.”
The disease was discovered in 1958, after two outbreaks occurred in colonies of monkeys used in research. It was this initial outbreak that gave the disease its name.
“Experts do not yet know where monkeypox hides in the wild, but small mammal rodents in Africa have a role in spreading the virus to humans and other forest animals such as monkeys,” the CDC says.
The first case in humans was identified more than a decade later, in 1970, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The CDC recalls that, at the time, a major effort was made to eliminate smallpox (the last natural case was in 1977, and which was officially recognized as eliminated by the World Health Organization in 1980).
Since the first patient identified in 1970, human cases have been reported in nine other countries in Central and West Africa.
Since 2017, more than 400 cases of the disease have been diagnosed in people in Nigeria.
In 2003, an outbreak of the disease in the United States affected 47 people, none of whom died. According to the CDC, this was the first time monkeypox had been confirmed in humans outside Africa.
At the time, the virus was brought by rodents imported from Africa, which transmitted the disease to prairie dogs (a type of rodent native to North America) used as pets.
According to the CDC, only five other human cases have been reported outside Africa. In 2018, three people were infected in Britain and one in Israel. In 2019, there was a case in Singapore.
This year, in addition to the case identified in Texas, three other cases were reported in the United Kingdom. The CDC notes that these cases are not related to the patient in Texas.
The first symptoms may be flu-like and are accompanied by swollen lymph nodes. After these initial symptoms, a rash appears on the face and body of the patients. In most cases, the infection lasts between two and four weeks.
“In this specific case (from Texas), laboratory tests at the CDC showed that the patient is infected with the strain most commonly seen in parts of West Africa, including Nigeria,” the CDC says.
“Infection with this strain of monkeypox is fatal in one out of every 100 people. But the rate may be higher in people with weakened immune systems,” the agency explains.
A person can become infected with monkeypox by being bitten or scratched by an infected animal, eating the flesh of wild animals, or coming into contact with an infected animal or animal products.
In humans, scientists believe the primary mode of transmission is through respiratory droplets. Since these droplets cannot be transmitted for more than a few metres, experts believe that these cases are transmitted when there is close and prolonged contact with infected people.
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Contagion is also possible through contact with bodily fluids and wounds, or through contaminated objects.
The CDC says that there is no proven and safe treatment for this disease. But the agency points out that the smallpox vaccine has already been used to control past outbreaks, such as those in the United States in 2003.