U.S. health officials on Friday urged doctors to test for monkeypox if they suspect cases, saying there may be community-level spread but that the overall public health risk remained low.
So far, there have been 21 cases of the disease in at least 11 states. Affected patients are isolating to help prevent spreading the virus, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials told reporters in a conference call.
The CDC said it was aware of 700 cases of monkeypox that have been reported globally outside of parts of Africa, where the disease is endemic. No deaths have been reported so far.
The agency is collaborating with global experts to learn more about how this outbreak began and how it is now spreading within the United States and elsewhere.
In a detailed report of 17 cases published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, most patients identified as men who have sex with men. In many of the cases the monkeypox rash started in the genital area, which could lead some doctors to diagnose it as a more common sexually transmitted infection such as herpes or syphilis.