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Rare monkeypox case detected in Massachusetts

This 2003 electron microscope image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a monkeypox virion, obtained from a sample associated with the 2003 prairie dog outbreak. (Cynthia S. Goldsmith, Russell Regner/CDC via AP)
This 2003 electron microscope image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a monkeypox virion, obtained from a sample associated with the 2003 prairie dog outbreak. (Cynthia S. Goldsmith, Russell Regner/CDC via AP)

The United States' first case of monkeypox this year has been confirmed in Massachusetts, where a man who recently traveled to Canada is hospitalized with the rare viral illness.

Department of Public Health officials confirmed Wednesday that the man has been diagnosed with monkeypox, a "rare but potentially serious viral illness that typically begins with flu-like illness and swelling of the lymph nodes and progresses to a rash on the face and body." DPH said the case "poses no risk to the public" and that the infected man is hospitalized and in good condition.

The state agency is working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, local boards of health and the patient's health care providers to trace the man's contacts during the time he was contagious. DPH said monkeypox can begin with flu-like symptoms and progress to lesions that start on one part of the body and spread elsewhere. Monkeypox could be clinically confused with a sexually transmitted infection like syphilis or herpes, officials said.

The CDC says the virus is "very rare" in America and "does not occur naturally in the United States." There were two U.S. cases last year, in Texas and Maryland, and the United Kingdom has identified nine cases of monkeypox since early this month, which DPH said have occurred mostly among men who have sex with men.

In parts of Africa where monkeypox occurs more regularly, DPH said that people can be exposed through bites or scratches from rodents and small mammals, preparing wild game, or having contact with an infected animal or possibly animal products.

DPH said the monkeypox virus does not spread easily between people and that transmission can occur via contact with body fluids, monkeypox sores, contaminated items, or through respiratory droplets following prolonged face-to-face contact.

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