The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a health advisory after a more serious and infectious variant of the mpox virus was reported across the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Mpox, formerly known as Monkeypox, is a rare viral infection that causes fever, chill and rash. It has no cure but in most cases, the infection subsides itself. However, in some people, it can cause complications such as pneumonia and infections of the brain or eyes, which can be life-threatening.
Clade I Monkeypox virus (MPXV), the mpox variant with a 10% fatality rate, is now spreading in DRC. Cases related to this subtype of mpox virus have not been reported in the U.S. However, the CDC has alerted health professionals about its possibility in travelers who have been to DRC.
The agency issued a level 2 travel health notice as the outbreak was confirmed in 22 out of 26 provinces of DRC.
"Person-to-person transmission has occurred during this outbreak, including through sexual contact, household contact, and within the healthcare setting," the agency said.
Meanwhile, health officials from Rhode Island and Nashville, Tennessee, have reported a surge in cases of mpox.
"With new mpox cases recently reported in RI for the first time in several months, it's important for people at risk to be aware of the symptoms and get vaccinated against mpox or complete their vaccination series," the Rhode Island Department of Health said on X, formerly known as Twitter.
"Our community has seen an uptick in mpox cases recently, and we're taking action to protect you. mpox spreads through close contact, often via sexual contact. Stop by tomorrow for your mpox vaccine," Nashville Health officials posted on X.
Last year, mpox outbreaks were reported across 110 countries, including the U.S., and the cases were related to the Clade IIb variant, which has a fatality rate of less than 1%. The infection primarily, but not exclusively, affected gay, bisexual and men who had sex with other men. It spreads person-to-person through sexual networks.
Know the signs of mpox infection
- Fever and chills
- Skin rash - It appears within four days of fever. The rash starts on the face and hands, and slowly spreads to other parts.
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Headache, muscle pain and backache
The symptoms typically occur three days to two weeks after exposure to the virus.
Mpox virus gets transmitted through direct contact with rashes, scabs or body fluids of an infected person, or extended close contact with their respiratory droplets and sexual contact. It can also spread through shared materials such as sheets and blankets that have been in contact with rashes or body fluids of an infected person. The infection can also spread from a pregnant woman to her fetus.
It can spread from infected animals to humans through bites or scratches and contact with body fluids and rashes. It can also get transmitted if a person eats infected wild meat, or use skins or furs of an infected animal.
The first step in prevention is to get vaccinated. However, CDC does not recommend routine immunization against mpox for the general public.
Getting two doses of JYNNEOS vaccine, four weeks apart is recommended for people who are at high risk of contracting the virus. The vaccine is given in cases of post-exposure prophylaxis (after exposure to the mpox virus) or people with certain risk factors and behaviors that might make them more prone to exposure.
If a person is at high risk and has not received vaccination, minimizing skin contact and temporarily changing some parts of one's sex life might help reduce the risk of exposure to the virus. Maintaining hand hygiene, and avoiding contact with materials or objects used by a person with mpox are also important.