More than 300 Massachusetts residents have contracted monkeypox as 3 dozen more catch virus

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More than three dozen Massachusetts residents contracted monkeypox in the last week of testing, public health officials said, bringing the state’s total number of infections with the virus to more than 300 in about three months.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health said 37 patients tested positive for monkeypox between Aug. 25 and Aug. 31, the latest testing period available. The virus has spread relatively consistently in recent weeks — 37 people also contracted monkeypox in the week of testing that ended Aug. 24, and 41 people tested positive the week before.

Monkeypox is usually rare in the United States and is more of a problem in Central and West Africa. It can cause flu-like symptoms and swollen lymph nodes, but can progress to a rash covering the face and body. The virus can sometimes be confused with a sexually transmitted infection – such as syphilis or herpes – or chickenpox.

Although monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted disease, it has spread disproportionately through skin-to-skin contact between men who have sex with other men, according to state and national public health officials.

The 37 new cases reported by DPH Thursday afternoon brought the state’s total to 317 since May 18, when a Massachusetts man returning from Canada became infected the first case in the United States this year.

Nearly 20,000 people across the country have contracted monkeypox in the three and a half months since. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The virus has also spread to other countries. On July 23, the World Health Organization declared a global epidemic of monkeypox and Emergency situation in the field of public health of international interest.

Public health officials in Massachusetts are working to trace the contacts of people who have tested positive for monkeypox. Sick patients are advised to isolate themselves and avoid contact with others until they are no longer infectious.

The monkeypox vaccine is available in Massachusetts for specific patients who have been exposed to the virus or have been in close contact with someone who has had it. More details can be found at VAT website.

As of the end of August, Massachusetts had administered 18,085 doses of monkeypox vaccine.

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