PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The CDC has now confirmed a case of monkeypox in Philadelphia – the first found in Pennsylvania. Monkeypox infections in the United States have doubled to 21 in a week.
Meanwhile, the CDC is stepping up its efforts to fight the spread of the virus by launching an emergency response.
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“Given how well-connected our world is, no one is truly isolated,” said Dana Perella, manager of the health department’s acute communicable disease program.
Monkeypox is transmitted by prolonged close contact.
With several large crowds expected at events in Philadelphia this weekend, health officials say people should know what to watch out for.
Monkeypox, the contagious virus that causes lesions, may be more prevalent than previously thought, but CDC officials say the overall risk remains low.
“Currently, reported cases in the United States are primarily in gay, bisexual, or other men who have sex with men,” said CDC’s Dr. Jennifer McQuinston.
Doctors say anyone can get monkeypox. It is not sexually transmitted but spreads mainly through close contact or large respiratory droplets.
“It is important that we realize that this is not a homosexual infection,” said infectious disease specialist Dr Mark Watkins.
The Mazzoni Center says the organization wants to raise awareness and is issuing a notice of upcoming Pride festivities.
“You’re not going to get it just from casual contact that way, walking down the street, passing someone in a crowd,” Watkins said.
At a concert, you sit next to someone, maybe you dance next to someone for a few hours. Is this a potential risk?
“So some people will say yes that you shouldn’t be in close physical contact like that with someone you don’t know,” Watkins said.
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Another Philadelphia event this weekend that expects large crowds is the Roots Picnic and Concert.
“I don’t think it’s something we should be panicking about, it doesn’t spread the same way COVID spreads. Like, you know, it’s not as easy to catch that as it is to catch COVID. So, you know, I don’t think this is the next pandemic, but it’s interesting and unusual. And I think we definitely need to investigate to figure out what’s really going on,” said Dr. Marci Drees, head of infection prevention at ChristianaCare.
Drees says the virus is spread through close contact, including skin or respiratory transmission, and will most likely be diagnosed when a rash breaks out several days after exposure.
Other symptoms include fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, back pain, swollen lymph nodes, exhaustion, and a rash that develops one to three days after exposure.
“The rash can be on different parts of the body. It is usually more common on the face and extremities than on the middle part of the body. What has been a distinguishing feature of this outbreak is that it has sometimes been isolated from the genital area,” Drees said.
Drees also says that if you develop a rash, it’s important to contact your doctor, cover it immediately, and isolate it.
“It can also spread through materials, so if you handle the bedding or towels of someone with monkeypox lesions, you can catch it that way,” Drees said.
Monkeypox was accidentally imported into the United States in 2003 – transmitted by rodents shipped from Africa to prairie dogs.
It has historically spread from animals to humans, but authorities have been unable to trace this outbreak first identified last month in a British patient.
“It’s clearly spreading in a different way than it has before,” Drees said.
Monkeypox is similar to the smallpox virus and the smallpox vaccine can be used to help treat high-risk patients with monkeypox.
Officials say the best way to stay safe is to practice social distancing, masking and proper hand washing.
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CBS3’s Alicia Roberts, Ross DiMattei and Stephanie Stahl contributed to this report.