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Emergency preparedness doctor on monkeypox: "We should be able to identify and control this outbreak"

Monkeypox patient in Massachusetts released from hospital
Monkeypox patient in Massachusetts released from hospital 01:02

BOSTON - The chief of emergency preparedness at Massachusetts General Hospital says that while the monkeypox outbreak is concerning, there are reassuring signs as the state's first patient to be diagnosed with the rare virus this year is now out of the hospital.

"Anything that's different raises our level of concern. We have not seen cases of monkeypox in individuals without a travel history to West Africa or contact with animals, so that is still concerning," Dr. Paul Biddinger told WBZ-TV. "But I think what's reassuring is that. . . the spread right now still requires prolonged close contact. We should be able to identify and control this outbreak through case investigation and good awareness among the public, as well as clinicians."

The man who is now out of the Boston hospital after nearly two weeks of treatment had more than 200 people identified as close contacts, most of them health care workers. Some of them may have only spoken to the patient or handled their medical records; Biddenger said it was important to cast a wide net when identifying contacts.

"When you identify someone who has had a new kind of illness, we try and find every way we can to try to identify who might have come in contact with that patient," he said.

Biddinger said vaccines are a useful tool in controlling the monkeypox outbreak. According to the CDC, the existing smallpox vaccine is "at least 85% effective in preventing monkeypox."

"We have good data that says that if you give the vaccine within four days of exposure to someone who's at high risk, that it has a high likelihood of preventing illness," Biddinger said. "But even up for the first couple of weeks it lessens the likelihood of severe illness. So that's what we're looking at here in Massachusetts as well as really around the world."

No new monkeypox cases have been confirmed in Massachusetts, which Biddinger says is good news.

"It's not spreading anything like what we're seeing in Europe in terms of those case numbers, and I think that is something that we see for reassurance," he said. "This fits with what we know of the disease right now, which is that it requires prolonged close contact, and we're not seeing large numbers of cases increasing around the suspect cases that we've seen so far."


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