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CDC advises mpox may be making a comeback

SALT LAKE CITY — A deadlier version of monkeypox — which is now being called simply mpox — is hitting the central African nation of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The new strain’s death rate is higher than the mpox variant that spread in Europe and the U.S. in 2022. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is calling on people who are at high risk to be vaccinated.

As U.S. News reported, “Mpox has long been endemic to Africa, since it can be spread to humans via contact with animals such as monkeys.” The article notes that the recent outbreak there suggests “multiple introductions from animal hosts within” the country.

The article added, “Luckily, there is an mpox vaccine, manufactured under the brand name Jynneos. It’s a two-dose regimen, with shots given about a month apart.”

The 2022 outbreak primarily involved gay and bisexual men, per CDC. And with Pride events coming up, public health officials are encouraging vaccination. During the outbreak, there were 32,063 cases in the U.S. with 58 deaths. Globally, there were 95,912 cases, per CDC.

Per the New York Times, “The CDC is focusing on encouraging Americans at highest risk to become vaccinated before the virus resurges. The agency’s outreach efforts include engaging with advocacy groups and social media influencers who have broad appeal among the LGBTQ. community. In December, the agency urged clinicians to remain alert for possible cases in travelers from Congo.”

“There are two main types of mpox: Clade I, the type that is dominant in Congo, and Clade II, a version of which caused the 2022 global outbreak. (A clade is a genetically and clinically distinct group of viruses.) Both clades have circulated in Africa for decades, sporadically erupting into outbreaks,” the Times reported.

The CDC said Thursday it’s vital to get the outbreak in Congo under control — and to keep it from spreading to other countries.

Symptoms of mpox

The first visible sign can be a rash, often located on the hands, feet, chest, face or mouth or near the genital area. Incubation is 3-17 days and during that time, there are no symptoms. When the rash appears, it might look like pimples or blisters, before it scabs over and heals. The rash sometimes hurts or itches.

Other symptoms may include fever, chills, swollen lymph nodes, exhaustion, muscle and back aches, headache, and respiratory symptoms like nasal congestion or cough.

The CDC says anyone with symptoms should see a health care provider — but wear a mask when you go.

There’s no evidence that someone with no symptoms can spread the virus.

How mpox spreads

Both clades spread through intimate or close personal contact and pregnant women can pass the virus on to a fetus in the womb or to a newborn during and after birth, according to CDC.

It can also spread by touching “objects, fabrics and surfaces that have not been disinfected after use by someone with mpox,” per CDC. Spread can begin up to four days before someone has symptoms and can be possible until the rash has healed completely and new skin formed. Mpox can also transmit to people through contact with animals by way of direct close contact, including with the infected animal’s fluids or waste, or through bites and scratches.

CDC said there’s no indication it spreads through water in pools, hot tubs or splash pads and it’s known that the recommended level of chlorine in recreational water venues kills the virus.

A report in the Journal of Infectious Diseases said that about 1 in 15 of the unvaccinated adults who went to a sexual health clinic in New York City were found to have antibodies to mpox, even though they had not been vaccinated or had any symptoms of infection during the city’s 2022 mpox outbreak. That suggests, researchers said, that symptomless infections also contributed to transmission.

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