Monkeypox, a rare viral illness that usually occurs in Central and Western Africa, has been identified in a second US resident since July. A Maryland resident who recently returned from Nigeria is in isolation with mild symptoms of the virus first detected in lab monkeys, the Maryland Department of Health said Tuesday, per the New York Times. This comes after a Texas resident who'd returned from Nigeria was hospitalized with an infection in July. It was the first known US case since a 2003 outbreak involving 47 confirmed and probable cases in six states. More than 200 contacts of the Texas resident were asked to monitor their health for three weeks, but no more cases emerged, per CBS News.
Monkeypox, which is related to smallpox, most often occurs in animals, including rats, mice, and rabbits. However, people can become infected through contact with an infected animal or perhaps even animal products, according to the CDC. All those infected in the 2003 outbreak had contact with pet prairie dogs, who were infected "after being housed near imported small mammals from Ghana," the CDC said. An infection can trigger flu-like symptoms, swelling of lymph nodes, a rash, body sores, and other symptoms. A vaccine is available, but data on possible treatments for existing infections, which typically last two to four weeks, is limited.
"No special precautions are recommended at this time for the general public," Maryland health authorities say, per the Times, noting the virus that can pass from person to person through bodily fluids, contaminated materials, or large respiratory droplets was likely contained during air travel due to the use of face masks. Still, the CDC said it was working to reach anyone who may have had contact with the Maryland resident, who is infected with a strain that has a 1% fatality rate. Nigeria has seen 218 monkeypox cases in humans since 2017, when the virus re-emerged in the country after a 40-year lapse. Eight cases, including the two US cases, have been reported in international travelers from the country in the last four years. (Read more monkeypox stories.)