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CDC moves to expand monkeypox testing capacity in effort to head off spread; one case reported in KY

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

Kentucky still is reporting just one probable case of monkeypox as of Wednesday afternoon, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has begun shipping monkeypox tests to five commercial laboratory companies to quickly increase monkeypox testing capacity nationwide.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the CDC said 306 monkeypox cases were reported in 27 states and the District of Columbia. Among Kentucky’s neighboring states, Illinois had 45 cases, Virginia 3, with Missouri, Indiana, and Ohio having two apiece. Tennessee and West Virginia had not reported any cases.

CDC illustration of the monkeypox virus

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS, of which the CDC is a part, says the commercial labs will dramatically expand testing capacity nationwide and make testing more convenient and accessible for patients and health care providers. Health care providers will be able to use these laboratories by early July and testing capacity through these companies will be ramped up throughout the month.

According to HHS, this will facilitate increased testing, leverage established relationships between clinics, hospitals and commercial laboratories, and support our ability to better understand the scope of the current monkeypox outbreak.
“All Americans should be concerned about monkeypox cases, said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “Thankfully, we have right now the tools to fight and treat cases in America. By dramatically expanding the number of testing locations throughout the country, we are making it possible for anyone who needs to be tested to do so.”

It’s not clear how the people were exposed to monkeypox, but according to the CDC, early data suggest that gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men make up a high number of cases. However, anyone who has been in close contact with someone who has monkeypox is at risk.

The CDC says monkeypox, although rare, is no stranger to the U.S. In 2021, one case was reported in Maryland and another in Texas. Both were found in people who had recently returned from Nigeria.

Monkeypox – World Health Organization photo

The largest outbreak in the U.S. until now, occurred in 2003, when 47 confirmed and probable cases of monkeypox were reported in six states: Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin. All the people who were infected with monkeypox in this outbreak became ill after having contact with pet prairie dogs. The prairie dogs were infected after being housed near imported small mammals from Ghana.  This was the first time that human monkeypox was reported outside of Africa.

The 2003 outbreak was contained by an immediate embargo and prohibition on the importation, interstate transportation, sale, and release into the environment of certain species of rodents including prairie dogs.

FDA later rescinded the part of the order that restricted the capture, sale, and interstate movement of prairie dogs or domestically-bred African rodents, but the restriction on the importation of African rodents remains in place.

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