November 23, 2021

Health officials have confirmed that a Maryland resident who recently returned from Nigeria has contracted monkey pox, marking the second case of the rare but potentially fatal viral disease in the United States this year.

So far, the person has shown only mild symptoms, the Maryland Department of Health said in a press release last week. The person is isolated and has not been hospitalized.

“Public health officials have identified those who may have been in contact with the diagnosed person and are continuing to pursue them,” Jinlene Chan, MD, assistant secretary of the public health department, said in the press release. “Our response, in close coordination with CDC officials, shows the importance of maintaining a strong public health infrastructure.”

People who have come into contact with the infected person, including other passengers, will be contacted, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement. Because the air travelers wore face masks, there is a small chance the virus could spread through respiratory droplets, the CDC said.

In July, monkey pox was discovered in Texas in a traveler who was from Nigeria. This person was hospitalized, the CDC said in July. Its current condition is not known. People who came into contact with him were tracked down.

Monkeypox starts with flu-like symptoms and progresses to a widespread rash on the face and body, says the CDC. The disease is typically mild and causes less severe illness than smallpox, but it can be fatal in about 10% of cases.

Monkey pox was first discovered in 1958 when outbreaks occurred in monkey colonies held in Africa for research purposes, according to the CDC. It recurred in Nigeria in 2017 after more than 40 years with no reported cases.

Since 2017, 218 cases of monkey pox have been confirmed in Nigeria, the CDC said. Eight cases have been identified in international travelers from Nigeria, including the Texas and Maryland cases, the CDC said.

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