Monkeypox: US confirms first cases of virus in children

People queuing to receive a monkeypox vaccine in San Francisco. Cases of the virus were identified in children for the first time in the US on Friday. Photograph: Jessica Christian/AP

US news

Cases of infant and toddler unrelated and likely from household transmission, say health authorities


Fri 22 Jul 2022 22.28 EDT

Cases of monkeypox have been identified in the United States for the first time in children – a toddler in California and an infant who is not a US resident, health authorities say.

The two cases of the viral disease were unrelated and were likely the result of household transmission, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a statement on Friday.

The agency said the children were in good health and being treated.

Monkeypox, which causes flu-like symptoms and skin lesions, has been spreading largely in men who have sex with men in the recent outbreak, outside the central and west African countries where it is endemic. The disease spreads chiefly through close contact.

So far this year, there have been more than 14,000 cases of monkeypox in more than 60 countries, and five deaths in Africa.

Speaking on a conference call, Dr Jennifer McQuiston, the deputy director of the CDC’s division of high consequence pathogens and pathology, said it was not a surprise that pediatric cases of monkeypox had emerged, but “there is no evidence to date that we are seeing this virus spread outside” the communities of gay, bisexual and other men who had sex with men.

She said 99% of the 2,891 monkeypox cases confirmed in the US involved men who have sex with men, but there had been a handful of women and transgender men who had become infected.

The White House Covid-19 response coordinator, Dr Ashish Jha, speaking on the same call, said the government had delivered 300,000 doses of a monkeypox vaccine and was working to expedite the shipment from Denmark of 786,000 more doses.

He said there was already enough vaccine on hand to provide a first vaccine dose to more than half of the eligible population in New York City and more than 70% of the eligible population in Washington DC.

The fatality rate in previous outbreaks in Africa of the current strain has been about 1%, but so far this outbreak seems to be less lethal in the non-endemic countries. However, a number of patients have reported being hospitalised for severe pain.

Jha said the US was still evaluating whether the monkeypox outbreak should be declared a public health emergency.

“We’re looking at that, looking at what are the ways in which the response could be enhanced, if any, by declaring a public health emergency.”

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