Rare, contagious monkeypox virus appears in Maryland after patient returned from overseas travel

A case of monkeypox was confirmed in Maryland Tuesday night after a traveler returned to the United States from Nigeria.

Monkeypox is a rare but potentially serious viral illness that typically begins with flu-like symptoms and swelling of the lymph nodes and progresses to a widespread rash on the face and body.

It comes from a strain that has been re-emerging from Nigeria since 2017 after 40 years with no reported cases, according to laboratory scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Those with monkeypox are likely to have lesions, and travelers returning from Nigeria should watch out for symptoms. Because of the health risks associated with a single case of monkeypox, the CDC has asked clinicians to report suspected cases immediately to state or local public health authorities regardless of whether they are also exploring other potential diagnoses.

People can catch monkeypox by coming in contact with infected animals or animal products, including by preparing wild game or being bitten or scratched by an animal, according to the CDC.

Is monkeypox contagious?

Yes, but it depends on what stage you are in.

Monkeypox has three stages, according to the CDC.

  1. The first stage is an incubation period where the virus takes hold right after the person is infected. It can range from five to 21 days, and the person is not contagious at this point.
  2. The second stage is the prodrome phase, where the person shows early symptoms and could be contagious. These include fever, malaise, headache, sore throat and cough and swollen lymph nodes.
  3. The third stage is a rash, when lesions develop on the mouth and body of the person. Until all the scabs have fallen off, the person will be contagious. The whole stage can last about three weeks. 

Experts believe human-to-human transmission of monkeypox occurs primarily through large respiratory droplets.
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