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CDC raises monkeypox alert level

June 7, 2022, 3:50 PM UTC

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has raised its alert level for monkeypox to the middle of its three-tier system, urging Americans who travel to “practice enhanced precautions” as the number of outbreaks continues to grow.

To date, more than 1,000 people around the world have been diagnosed with the virus, which has spread to 29 countries beyond where monkeypox is already endemic. Health officials say the risk to the general public remains low, but they’re issuing this increased guidance given the spread.

“You should seek medical care immediately if you develop new, unexplained skin rash (lesions on any part of the body), with or without fever and chills, and avoid contact with others,” the guidance reads.

People are also being encouraged to avoid close contact with potentially infected people (including those with lesions) as well as sick or dead animals.

First discovered in 1958 in monkeys that were kept for research (which is where it got its name), monkeypox is a viral disease that’s most commonly found in central and western Africa. The disease can spread through contact with animals, infected people, and bodily fluids. It can be spread through respiratory droplets, but only in close settings.

Symptoms include fever, headache, body aches, exhaustion, and a rash that spreads across the body. It is fatal in up to 10% of infections.

The most recent outbreak was first identified in Europe on May 7, in an individual who had traveled to Nigeria, where monkeypox is endemic. Since then, 1,019 cases have spread through 29 countries, including the U.S.

The U.S. has 36,000 doses of the Jynneos monkeypox vaccine in the strategic national stockpile and is adding 36,000 more as the infectious disease spreads around the world.

The additional 36,000 doses, from Danish drugmaker Bavarian Nordic, should arrive in the near future, CNBC reported Monday, citing the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The company is holding more than 1 million doses for the U.S. and can provide more than 16 million additional vaccines if and when the federal government requests them.

Pharma company Nordic announced last month that it had contracted with the U.S. to manufacture a freeze-dried version of the Jynneos vaccine, with the option to convert the country’s existing vaccine stash into approximately 13 million freeze-dried doses. The contract is worth up to $299 million. The first doses won’t be available until 2023.

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