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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Health Dept. keeping an eye on monkeypox virus spread

Health Secretary Carlos Mellado López

By The Star Staff

The island Health Department remains attentive to the spread of monkeypox in various countries around the world, including a confirmed case in the mainland United States and several suspected cases.

Since May 13, cases of monkeypox have been reported to the World Health Organization from 12 countries that are not endemic for monkeypox virus. As of Saturday there were 90 confirmed cases and 28 suspected cases. Monkeypox, which is usually found in Central and West African rainforests, is a rare disease that is caused by infection with the monkeypox virus. It can be transmitted from animals to humans, although it can also spread between people.

The most common symptoms associated with monkeypox generally include: fever, severe headache, muscle aches, back pain, low energy, swollen lymph nodes, and skin rashes or lesions. The rash usually begins within one to three days after the onset of the fever, and tends to be concentrated on the face, the palms of the hands, and the soles of the feet.

“We are paying attention to the evolution of this new virus. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at this time the risk of infection is low,” Health Secretary Carlos Mellado López said. “Some people who may have symptoms of monkeypox, such as characteristic rashes or lesions, should contact their health care provider for treatment.”

The lesions may be flat or slightly raised, filled with clear or yellowish fluid, and may later crust over, dry out and fall off. The number of lesions in one person can range from a few to several thousand. They can also be found in the mouth and eyes, and on the genitals. Lesions may be widespread or localized only to the genital or perianal area. The disease may be clinically confused with a sexually transmitted infection such as syphilis or herpes, or with the varicella zoster virus infection.

Healthcare providers who identify patients with a rash that is consistent with monkeypox, especially those with a history of recent travel to a country where monkeypox has been reported, should consider monkeypox as a possible diagnosis.

Person-to-person transmission of this disease occurs through large respiratory droplets and by direct contact with body fluids. Respiratory droplets generally cannot travel more than a few feet, so prolonged face-to-face contact is required. While animal-to-human transmission can occur through a bite or scratch, it can also occur during the grooming of animals, and direct or indirect contact with bodily fluids.

The CDC indicates that a diagnosis of monkeypox should be considered if the rash is observed with: people who have traveled to countries with recently confirmed cases of monkeypox; or people who report contact with a person or persons who have a similar-appearing rash or received a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of monkeypox; and/or a man who regularly has close or intimate in-person contact with other men, the agency said.

Providers should be vigilant and report any suspected cases to the Department of Health Surveillance System, the agency said.

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