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Health & medicine

2 health workers likely don't have monkeypox, officials say

Associated Press
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 14, 2003

MADISON, Wis. - Wisconsin officials said Friday it is unlikely that two health care workers who fell ill after treating patients with the monkeypox virus were infected with the disease.

The cases would have been the first known U.S. human-to-human transmissions of the virus. Monkeypox, a disease related to smallpox but less lethal, appeared in the country for the first time when at least a dozen people had contact with infected pet prairie dogs.

A nurse in Milwaukee and a medical assistant in Marshfield showed symptoms similar to those from monkeypox after treating patients with the disease. The boyfriend of the medical assistant also showed symptoms.

Jeff Davis, Wisconsin's chief epidemiologist, said further examinations suggest the three do not have the disease, but the state was awaiting test results from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to rule it out.

By Friday afternoon, state health officials around the country had confirmed 12 human cases of monkeypox: four each in Wisconsin, Indiana and Illinois. Also, 71 possible cases had been reported: 22 in Indiana, 30 in Wisconsin, 15 in Illinois, two in Ohio and one each in Arizona and Kentucky.

Another possible case, involving an 11-year-old New Jersey boy, also had been reported, but the CDC told state officials Friday that he actually had the common childhood ailment chickenpox.

No one has died of monkeypox in the United States, but at least 14 patients with symptoms have been hospitalized, including a child in Indiana with a confirmed case who also has encephalitis, or brain inflammation. Indiana State Department of Health spokesman Matthew McCardle said Friday the girl was recovering.

The human mortality rate from monkeypox in Africa has ranged from 1 percent to 10 percent, but the virus may be less lethal in the United States because people typically are better nourished and medical technology is more advanced, according to the CDC.

Monkeypox causes pus-filled blisters, rashes, chills and fever.

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