As the national infection tally for monkeypox rose to 49 cases Friday, the director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that the virus can spread through the air, but only through "sustained face-to-face contact."
In a briefing on Friday, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said that monkeypox is being spread through physical contact with symptomatic patients and by touching their clothing and bedding.
"The disease is not spread through casual conversations, passing others in a grocery store, or touching things like doorknobs," she said.
During the briefing, Walensky stressed that the virus is only spreading through the air via large droplets expelled from infected people.
"It may spread through respiratory secretions when people have sustained face-to-face contact," she said. "All of the cases that we have seen to date in this outbreak have been related to direct contact with patients or with materials that have touched them either through close contact or through bedsheets and what not."
Warning that many patients with monkeypox were experiencing rashes and sores on the genitals and anus that resembled sexual transmitted infections, health officials recommended that any Americans with STIs, such as syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia, get tested for the virus.
On Friday, Rhode Island became the fifteenth state to report a case of the disease, bringing the U.S. case total to 49, the Daily Mail reports.
Health officials in Hawaii, which reported its third case on Thursday, are concerned it may be spreading unchecked in their community.
According to medical literature, people infected with monkeypox experience flu-like symptoms within 21 days of contracting the virus, followed by a rash that appears first on the face before spreading to the rest of the body.
In the current outbreak, however, patients are seeing rashes on their genital areas before experiencing any flu-like symptoms.
At the briefing, health officials also said they had distributed more than 1,400 monkeypox vaccines to states from their stockpile of more than one million doses. Another 300,000 doses have been ordered and are expected to arrive in the coming weeks.
Approximately 75% of cases are currently tied to international travel, while others are linked to someone who has had close contact with a known case, according to the Mail.
Several patients, across multiple states, have tested positive for the virus, despite not having a recent travel history or contact with a known case.
Late Monday, the CDC deleted guidance from its website that travelers should wear face masks to protect themselves, with a spokeswoman saying the guidance was removed because it was "causing confusion."
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