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New Strain of Monkeypox Virus Emerges in DRC, CDC Issues Health Alert for US Travelers

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently issued a health alert, cautioning clinicians and health departments nationwide about a concerning new strain of monkeypox that’s emerged and spread extensively.

This variant, identified as Clade I, originated in the Democratic Republic of COngo (DRC), having made its way across 22 of the nation’s 26 provinces. The CDC’s Health Alert Network (HAN) stressed the importance of heightened awareness, especially for travelers returning from the affected areas. As of the alert, Clade I hasn’t been detected in the United States.

The health advisory emphasizes the urgency for increased vigilance among healthcare practitioners due to the outbreak affecting a significant portion of the DRC, including urban regions. Given the potential for its introduction via travelers, healthcare professionals are urged to be prepared for potential cases and be vigilant for symptoms resembling other strains of the virus, notably a widespread rash and lymph node swelling.

Prompt reporting to state health departments is encouraged upon encountering patients displaying these symptoms, especially those with recent travel history to the DRC. The CDC also stresses the importance of submitting lesion specimens for clade-specific testing in suspected cases.

Despite lower vaccine coverage in the US, the CDC reaffirms the efficacy of vaccines like JYNNEOS and ACAM2000 against both Clade I and Clade II MPXV infections. Healthcare providers are strongly recommended to advise eligible patients to get vaccinated.

In a separate travel advisory, the CDC advises caution for travelers in the DRC, suggesting measures like avoiding contact with ill individuals, maintaining distance from wild animals, and refraining from handling or consuming game meat.

The CDC’s alert follows reports from the World Health Organization indicating that this strain of the monkeypox virus, causing the severe disease known as mpox, is more virulent and has a fatality rate of up to 10%. There are concerns regarding its potential for better adaptation to human-to-human transmission, heightening the risk, as stated by Rosamund Lewis from the WHO’s mpox surveillance team.

Last year, a less severe variant of the virus, Clade II, spread globally, resulting in over 31,000 diagnosed cases of mpox in the US and 55 fatalities.

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