The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified nine cases of monkeypox in seven states. The states include California, Florida, Massachusetts, New York, Utah, Virginia, and Washington.
All of the cases "are within gay, bisexual men and other men who have sex with men," CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told reporters during a press briefing on Thursday (May 26). Several cases have been linked to individuals who have recently traveled to areas with active monkeypox outbreaks, but Walenksy noted that "others do not."
"This is a community that has the strength and has demonstrated the ability to address challenges to their health by focusing on compassion and science," Walensky said. "While some groups may have a greater chance of exposure right now, infectious diseases do not care about state or international borders. They're not contained within social networks, and the risk of exposure is not limited to any one particular group."
The global outbreak, which includes 237 suspected and confirmed cases in 19 countries, has puzzled health experts because the virus is usually only found in west and central Africa or linked to people who have recently traveled to that part of the world.
Despite the high number of cases and community spread, health officials do not believe the outbreak will become a global pandemic.
"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.
"We continue to watch what is happening and think about whether wider vaccination recommendations would make sense, but at this time only have nine known cases," McQuiston added. "We have contacts that we've identified associated with those cases that would likely most benefit from vaccine, and so that's where we're focusing our energies right now."
Most cases of monkeypox are mild and start off with a fever, headaches, muscle aches, swelling, and back pain. Within a few days of having a fever, patients will develop a rash and sores on their hands and feet.
The infection usually clears up on its own within a month. There are no known treatments for monkeypox, though the smallpox vaccine does appear to offer some protection against the viral infection.