Federal health officials are alerting Americans traveling overseas that cases of monkeypox have been confirmed in 16 countries outside of West Africa, where the rare disease is more commonly found. So far no travel restrictions have been placed on any of these locations.
Monkeypox usually infects people who come in contact with either the skin lesions or bodily fluids of infected animals or people. Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches and swollen lymph nodes, followed by a rash, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Those infected are usually sick for two to four weeks.
“Risk to the general public is low, but 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 CDC says on its website.
As of May 23, confirmed cases outside West Africa have been reported in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, England, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States. According to the CDC, only one case of monkeypox has been confirmed in the U.S. The CDC is not recommending that people avoid traveling to the countries with confirmed cases. But the agency does have some tips for what travelers should avoid:
- Animals. Don’t touch live or dead animals, such as small mammals, including rodents, and monkeys and apes.
- Markets or farms with animals.
- Close contact with people who are sick, including those with skin or genital lesions.
- Eating or preparing meat from wild game, commonly known as bushmeat, or handling cream, lotions, powders or other products derived from wild animals from Africa.
- Contact with items that sick people may have used, such as clothing, bedding or materials used in health care settings.
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Dena Bunis covers Medicare, health care, health policy and Congress. She also writes the “Medicare Made Easy” column for the AARP Bulletin. An award-winning journalist, Bunis spent decades working for metropolitan daily newspapers, including as Washington bureau chief for the Orange County Register and as a health policy and workplace writer for Newsday.