A patient at Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan is being tested for monkeypox, according to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
In a statement Thursday afternoon, Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan said all appropriate isolation protocols are being followed as the department investigates the possible case.
If the patient tests positive, the results will be sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for confirmation. The city’s epidemiologists will also be following up with anyone who may have come in contact with the patient while they were infectious.
This announcement comes after the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and CDC confirmed on Wednesday that a patient there tested positive for the disease.
Monkeypox, which is in the same family as smallpox, is rare in the United States. Its symptoms can resemble the flu but include swelling of the lymph nodes and a blister-like rash on the face and body.
“The good thing is that the vaccine for smallpox, and we still have a good supply of that vaccine, also protects against monkeypox,” Dr. Celine Gounder, editor-at-large for Public Health at Kaiser Health News, told Gothamist.
According to the CDC, monkeypox is transmitted through close contact between people and infected animals, infected people or materials contaminated with the virus. It can also be transmitted through respiratory droplets.
“With this current outbreak, it does seem to also be spreading more easily than what has been our prior experience,” said Gounder, who is an infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist. “There are aspects of this that are unusual, but again, I think we just need to wait and see, get a bit more information before we draw any real connection.”
She added that New Yorkers should pay attention to reports about the disease, but not be overly worried.
“If you do happen to develop a rash on your hands, that is something that is concerning for something like monkeypox and is pretty unusual with other diseases,” Gounder said. “And so, if you do get a rash on your palms, I would go see a doctor.”
The CDC said it is also tracking multiple clusters of monkeypox reported within the last two weeks in countries where it is not normally reported, including Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom. It is unclear where those outbreaks originated, or if they are connected to the Massachusetts case, the CDC said.