More cases of monkeypox identified in Minnesota
“It’s clear that monkeypox has come to Minnesota,” said state Epidemiologist Dr. Ruth Lynfield. “While our current cases are associated with travel outside Minnesota, we expect we will soon see cases among people who have no travel history or contact with someone who did, indicating that spread within social networks in Minnesota is occurring.”
ST. PAUL — Minnesota health officials on Friday, July 1, said they have identified multiple new monkeypox infections in the state, bringing the total number of cases to six.
All the cases identified so far are in adults living in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. All had a history of travel, including domestic travel, or had direct contact with someone who had traveled. On June 25 Minnesota identified its first case, which was in a person who had traveled to Europe. However, community spread not attached to travel could soon be identified as it has in other states, the Minnesota Department of Health said.
While case numbers remain low, it's possible not all patients with monkeypox have sought testing. Officials said they’re concerned the number of infections could grow rapidly unless people who are infected take steps to protect themselves and seek medical care.
“It’s clear that monkeypox has come to Minnesota,” state Epidemiologist Dr. Ruth Lynfield said in a news release. “While our current cases are associated with travel outside Minnesota, we expect we will soon see cases among people who have no travel history or contact with someone who did, indicating that spread within social networks in Minnesota is occurring.”
Lynfield said it's possible many people with cases are not seeking medical attention and that the number of cases nationally is much higher than what current reports show.
International health officials raised concerns about monkeypox this spring after the disease was identified in several European countries where it is not usually found. As of June 24, The CDC has reported 201 cases of monkeypox in 26 states after the first U.S. case was confirmed in Massachusetts in May. In 2022 there have been more than 4,000 cases in dozens of countries outside where it is typically found in western and central Africa.
In response to the outbreak, the CDC has issued an alert for travelers. The World Health Organization said most of the current cases in the U.S. and Europe are not linked to travel to African countries, which is atypical. While the outbreak warrants attention, it is not a health emergency the group said in late June.
Symptoms of a monkeypox infection include: fever, headache, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes and a rash that can look like pimples or blisters. Some have only reported a rash, which can sometimes appear in the mouth or on the genitals. The disease requires close and prolonged contact to spread, and sustained skin-to-skin contact, including sexual contact, is a risk factor, according to the health department. Contact with clothing, bedding, furniture or other items that have been exposed to a sick person's skin lesions can also lead to an infection.
An infection typically resolves within two to four weeks without treatment, though it can sometimes lead to scarring from sores, pneumonia and in rare cases can be fatal, according to the health department.
Unlike chickenpox, which is a herpesvirus, monkeypox is an orthopoxvirus related to now-eradicated smallpox, according to the WHO. The first human infection was recorded in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1970. Monkeypox became more common in western and central Africa after countries ceased routine immunization for smallpox following the disease’s eradication in the late 1970s. The smallpox vaccine offers protection from monkeypox.
Vaccines and antiviral drugs are available for monkeypox, but the CDC does not currently recommend widespread use and says health professionals should approach vaccination on a case-by-case basis.
Many of the monkeypox cases in Europe and the U.S. have been in gay and bisexual men, Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said in a Monday briefing call with reporters, though she added that the virus does not just affect men who have sex with other men.
"Monkeypox does not discriminate based on race. gender, sexual orientation, where you come from or anything else," she said. "We condemn all forms of discrimination, violence and harm toward others based on bias or stigma."