Known U.S. cases of monkeypox have more than doubled in the past week, reaching 45 in more than a dozen states, though federal scientists do not believe the virus is spreading easily through the air.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said the nation is ramping up testing so it can diagnose people who show up at the doctor’s office with rashes or blisters.
So far, there have been no deaths from the infections, which are spread across 15 states and D.C.
New York leads the way with 11 cases, compared to eight in California, five in Florida and four in Illinois. Arizona, Colorado, D.C., Georgia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Washington state have reported three or fewer cases.
Dr. Walensky said transmission of monkeypox typically occurs through close personal contact, particularly when fluids or contact with blisters is involved. It can spread through respiratory droplets but that typically requires close, sustained face-to-face contact.
The virus does not appear to linger in the air, meaning casual conversation or shopping in the same store should be safe. The virus does not appear to spread through touching common items, like doorknobs.
Monkeypox is marked by fevers and an obvious rash. Cases are typically found in West and Central Africa and result in humans from contact with rodents.
Yet nearly 1,800 confirmed or suspected cases have popped up in non-endemic countries in recent months.
Many of the cases have been linked to men who have sex with men, though some persons do not know how they got the virus, meaning there could be some community transmission.
The government has shipped 1,400 smallpox vaccine courses to impacted states to protect high-risk contacts of known patients. The shipments include a smallpox vaccine known as ACAM2000 and a Jynneos vaccine that is designed to combat smallpox and monkeypox.
There has been a preference for the Jynneos shots but the government did not provide a breakdown of how many shots have been administered or what type.
“We have the vaccines and treatments we need to respond,” said Dawn O’Connell, assistant secretary for preparedness and response at the Department of Health and Human Services.
Dr. Raj Panjabi, senior director for global health security and biodefense at the White House, said 300 tests have been performed so far, including a 45% increase over the past week.
“We are working to make testing through public health labs more convenient. But testing can only happen when people with symptoms seek care,” he said.