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 efforts to address the spread of the virus by initiating an emergency response.
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“Given how well-connected our world is, no one is really isolated,” health department acute communicable disease program manager Dana Perella said.
Monkeypox is spread through extended close contact.
With several big crowds expected at Philadelphia events this weekend, health officials say people should know what to watch out for.
Monkeypox, the contagious virus that causes lesions, might be more widespread than first thought, but CDC officials say the overall risk remains low.
“Currently, the cases reported in the United States though, are mostly among gay, bisexual or other men who have sex with men,” said Dr. Jennifer McQuinston with the CDC.
Doctors say anyone can get monkeypox. It’s not sexually transmitted but spreads mainly through close contact or large respiratory droplets.
“It’s important that we realize this is not a gay infection,” infectious disease specialist Dr. Mark Watkins said.
The Mazzoni Center says the organization wants to raise awareness and is posting an advisory about the upcoming pride festivities.
“You’re not going to get it just from casual contact that way, walking down the street, bumping past somebody in a crowd,” Watkins said.
At a concert, you’re sitting next to somebody, maybe dancing next to somebody for a couple of hours. Is that a potential risk?
“So some people will say yes that you should not be at close physical contact like that with somebody that you don’t know,” Watkins said.
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Another Philadelphia event this weekend expecting large crowds is the Roots Picnic and concert.
“I don’t think it’s anything that we should be panicking about, it does not spread the same way that COVID spreads. For example, you know, it’s not nearly as easy to catch this as it is to catch COVID. So you know, I don’t see it being the next pandemic, but it is interesting and unusual. And I think we certainly need to investigate to figure out what’s really going on,” ChristianaCare Chief Infection Prevention Officer Dr. Marci Drees said.
Drees says the virus spreads 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, headaches, muscle aches, backaches, 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’s usually more common on the face and extremities than on the central part of the body. What’s been a distinguishing feature of this outbreak is that sometimes it’s been isolated to the genital area,” Drees said.
Drees also says if you develop the rash, it’s important to contact your doctor, cover it immediately and isolate.
“It also can be spread by materials so if you handle the bedding or the towels of someone with monkeypox lesions then you can catch it that way,” Drees said.
Monkeypox was accidentally imported to the United States in 2003 — transmitted from rodents shipped from Africa to prairie dogs.
It has historically been spread from animals to people but officials haven’t been able to trace this outbreak first identified last month in a British patient.
“It clearly is 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 handwashing.
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CBS3’s Alicia Roberts, Ross DiMattei and Stephanie Stahl contributed to this report.