A Dallas resident who recently flew back home from Nigeria has been hospitalized with monkeypox, health officials said Friday, marking the first case of the rare disease in the United States since a 2003 outbreak—which is not expected this time.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and local health officials, the patient has a strain of monkeypox most common in west Africa, and it’s not believed others who may have come into contact with the patient while traveling are at high risk of catching the infectious disease.
The patient flew from Lagos, Nigeria, to Atlanta on July 8 and took a flight from Atlanta to Dallas on July 9, according to the CDC.
Monkeypox is a rare and potentially serious disease usually found in central and western Africa that causes flu-like symptoms and swollen lymph nodes, followed by a rash that can appear similar to chickenpox.
It’s most commonly spread between humans through large respiratory droplets, but the CDC does not think it’s likely other travelers were infected since masks are required onboard planes and at airports.
The patient is in stable condition at a Dallas hospital, with the strain responsible for the infection having a typical mortality rate of around 1%, according to health officials.
“While rare, this case is not a reason for alarm and we do not expect any threats to the general public,” Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said in a statement.
The origin of monkeypox is unknown, but it’s believed rodents and small mammals—like monkeys—might carry the disease and spread it to humans. Bites or scratches from animals are thought to be ways the disease is transmitted, while contact with an infected animal or animal products is also considered a possibility. This latest case comes after Nigerian outbreaks started popping up in 2017, marking the end of a 40-year period without any known cases in the country, according to the CDC. The last time monkeypox was diagnosed in the U.S. was during 2003, when 47 people were infected after the disease spread from imported African rodents to pet prairie dogs. No deaths were reported in the 2003 outbreak.
Several U.S. cities are urging all residents regardless of vaccination status to wear masks and social distance again because of a spike in Covid-19, with the highly contagious Delta variant now the dominant strain in the United States.
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