Three residents of Broward County are confirmed with monkeypox and health officials are studying how the disease is spreading.
Two previously suspected cases in Broward County are confirmed and a third case, a Broward resident who was tested in the United Kingdom, also is now confirmed. It is unclear if they are related. “These cases are still under investigation by the Bureau of Epidemiology,” said a spokesman for Florida Department of Health.
The United States has a total of 18 confirmed monkeypox cases as of May 31, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health officials are conducting investigations and contact tracing to notify any possible exposures to these 18 individuals.
“We’re working hard to contain the cases that are happening so they don’t spread onward,” Jennifer McQuiston, deputy director of the CDC’s High Consequence Pathogens and Pathology division, said during a media briefing.
McQuiston also said the CDC is sharing its early sequence data to better understand how monkeypox has spread thus far. The recent monkeypox cases in the US and around the world have been identified as the West African strain, a milder form of the virus.
Since May 14, clusters of monkeypox have been reported globally. The World Health Organization has identified about 200 confirmed or suspected cases in at least a dozen countries. Although some US patients recently have traveled to areas where monkeypox has been spreading, not all involve travel.
So far, nearly all the US cases are among men who have sex with men, but monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted disease and anyone can contract it through close personal contact. Health officials are warning doctors not to mistake lesions on genitals that could be monkeypox for a sexually transmitted disease such as herpes.
Unlike COVID, which is spread by airborne droplets, monkeypox is primarily spread through physical contact such as skin-to-skin touch with someone who has an active rash. The virus can also spread through respiratory transmission when a person has lesions in their throat or mouth.
“It’s not a situation where if you’re passing someone in the grocery store, they’re going to be at risk for monkeypox,” McQuiston said. She noted that most people with monkeypox recover in two to four weeks without treatment.
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McQuiston said health care workers and family members caring for those sick with the illness can be at risk, however, people who received the smallpox vaccine are more likely to be protected against monkeypox. For prevention, two vaccines are available for monkeypox: the US has 100 million doses of one vaccine, called ACAM2000, however, it has side effects.
The second vaccine, called Jynneos, is FDA-approved for use against monkeypox in particular and some doses of it already have been distributed. There are also antivirals that can be used when someone is at high risk of severe illness.
“If you have an unexplained rash, see a doctor,” said Dr. John Brooks, an epidemiologist for the CDC’s HIV/AIDS Prevention division during a media briefing. A PCR test can confirm monkeypox, he said. Brooks said providers can seek instructions on the CDC website on how to collect specimens and ship them to the CDC.
At this time, the goal is awareness, Brooks said. “If someone has a rash, we want the provider to think it could be monkeypox.”
Monkeypox usually begins with symptoms similar to the flu including fever, headache, muscle aches, chills, exhaustion and swollen lymph nodes. The disease then progresses to rashes or lesions. But with some of the recent cases, the rash has appeared first.
“We’re concerned enough about the pace at which new cases are developing worldwide that we want to raise everyone’s attention to be very vigilant, so we can try and control this as quickly as possible,” Brooks said.
Sun Sentinel health reporter Cindy Goodman can be reached at email@example.com.