(The Hill/WFXR) — Nine monkeypox cases across seven states in the U.S. have been confirmed as of this week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

During a press briefing, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky confirmed that nine cases of monkeypox in seven states have been identified.

“These cases were suspected by local clinicians. They were identified by local laboratories and triggered local public health action to help with treatment and management of any potential contacts,” Walensky said.

Cases have been identified California, Florida, Massachusetts, New York, Utah, Virginia, and Washington. The clinical samples of these suspected cases were also tested by the CDC for confirmatory testing.

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) announced the Commonwealth’s first presumed monkeypox case on Thursday, May 26, saying it involves a woman who lives in Virginia’s northern region with recent international travel history to an African country where the disease is known to occur.

According to the VDH, the woman was not infectious during travel, did not require hospitalization, and is isolating at home to monitor her health. The department is identifying and monitoring the patient’s close contacts, but says no additional cases have been detected in Virginia at this time.

Although rare, monkeypox is a potentially serious viral illness that is transmitted when someone has close contact with an infected person or animal. Person-to-person spread occurs with prolonged close contact or with direct contact with body fluids or contact with contaminated materials such as clothing or linens. Illness typically begins with fever, headache, muscle aches, exhaustion, and swelling of the lymph nodes. After a few days, a specific type of rash appears, often starting on the face and then spreading to other parts of the body. Symptoms generally appear seven to 14 days after exposure and, for most people, clear up within two to four weeks. Some people can have severe illness and die. As with many viral illnesses, treatment mainly involves supportive care and relief of symptoms.

If you are sick and have symptoms consistent with monkeypox, seek medical care from your healthcare provider, especially if you are in one of the following groups:

— Those who traveled to central or west African countries, parts of Europe where monkeypox cases have been reported, or other areas with confirmed cases of monkeypox during the month before their symptoms began,
— Those who have had contact with a person with confirmed or suspected monkeypox, or
— Men who regularly have close or intimate contact with other men.

If you need to seek care, call your healthcare provider first. Let them know you are concerned about possible monkeypox infection so they can take precautions to ensure that others are not exposed.

On May 20, 2022, VDH distributed a Clinician Letter to medical professionals reminding them to report any suspected cases of monkeypox to their local health department as soon as possible and implement appropriate infection prevention precautions.

Statement released on May 26, 2022 by the Virginia Department of Health

According to Walensky, some, not all, of the cases were linked to individuals who had travelled to areas with active monkeypox outbreaks. The cases in the U.S. have been found in men who have sex with men, though Walensky stressed that the risk of exposure is “not limited to any one particular group.”

“Stigma and discrimination in public health results in decreased access to care, ongoing disease transmission and a blunted response to outbreaks and threats,” said the CDC director. “So I urge everyone to approach this outbreak without stigma and without discrimination.”

The U.S. has two vaccines and two antiviral treatments that can be used for orthopox infections, a family of viruses that monkeypox falls within. One vaccine called Jynneos has already been mobilized to be sent to states with confirmed cases.

The officials on Thursday also emphasized that tests available for orthopox viruses are believed to be accurate and sufficient for handling the current spread of cases.

“A monkeypox outbreak of this scale and scope across the world, it has not been seen before,” Raj Panjabi, the White House’s senior director for global health security and biodefense, said in the press briefing.

Monkeypox is primarily spread through the the characteristic skin lesions that develop in people who are infected. A person is considered to be infectious until these lesions are fully healed. It is spread mostly through close contact with an infected person, their clothing or their bedsheets.

CDC epidemiologist Jennifer McQuiston said measures like condoms likely wouldn’t protect against monkeypox as the disease is spread through skin-to-skin, not necessarily just through sexual contact, as monkeypox rashes can be widespread across the face and body.