The CDC removed a recommendation to wear a mask from its monkeypox guidelines for travelers earlier this week, saying it was “causing confusion,” according to an agency statement shared with MedPage Today.
Orientation originally stated: “Wear a mask. Wearing a mask can help protect you against many diseases, including monkeypox.”
But this statement no longer appears on the CDC’s “Travel Health Advisories” for monkeypox.
“Late Monday, the CDC removed the mask recommendation from the travel health notice regarding monkeypox because it caused confusion,” the CDC statement read.
The statement adds that in “countries where there is a current outbreak of monkeypox, the CDC continues to recommend masking in high-risk situations, including for household contacts and healthcare workers, or for other people who may be in close contact with someone who has been confirmed. with monkeypox.”
The retraction comes as World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, said during a press briefing on Wednesday that “the risk of monkeypox becoming established in non-endemic countries is real”.
However, it is not too late to change things, WHO officials said. There is “still a window of opportunity to prevent the spread of monkeypox among those who are currently most at risk” and bring the virus under control, said Rosamund Lewis, MSc, WHO technical lead on monkeypox, during the briefing.
Still, scientists have expressed legitimate concerns that the virus could become endemic in the United States by potentially establishing itself in an animal population here. If that happens, the United States could face repeated human outbreaks, according to a press article in Science.
There are currently no animal reservoirs outside of Africa, where rodents are thought to be the primary animal host, according to Science.
Questions have also been raised about modes of transmission of monkeypox, and a recent New York Times article noted that the virus can be airborne, “at least over short distances” – which comes as no surprise to infectious disease experts. Although airborne transmission is not considered a major factor in the spread, Time reported that “there are no firm estimates regarding its contribution”.
It is widely accepted that the primary mode of human-to-human transmission is through very close contact, especially directly with lesions; and that, at least in endemic areas, it is much more often transmitted from an animal to a human host.
That’s one of the reasons Grant McFadden, PhD, a virology expert at Arizona State University, said masks probably aren’t needed at the population level yet.
“Masks make sense for people in close contact with people infected with monkeypox, but they shouldn’t be needed for general use by the public to protect against this disease,” McFadden said. MedPage today by email.
The CDC did not respond to further MedPage today questions about forwarding and masking, but the agency is now tracking and publicly report monkeypox cases in the United States daily. As of Thursday, June 9, there were 45 cases in 16 states, according to the CDC tracker. On Wednesday, the WHO confirmed more than 1,000 cases in 29 countries outside West and Central Africa.
Jennifer McQuiston, DVM, deputy director of the Division of High Consequence Pathogens and Pathology at the CDC, told reporters at an Association for Health Care Journalists fellowship meeting on the CDC campus earlier this week that Canada has moved to a preventive vaccination strategy in some cases. .
“They recently made a change, because they have a big outbreak in Montreal with a lot of cases … and it’s probably that they had so many cases that they couldn’t do contact tracing effectively,” McQuiston said. .
Earlier this week, the province of Quebec in Canada reported a total of 90 confirmed cases of monkeypox and began offering a smallpox vaccine to certain close contacts of infected people, according to Radio Canada. So far, 813 people have been vaccinated, according to the report.
“If we see something like this happen in the United States,” McQuiston said, “we might make a similar decision.”
She added that CDC scientists are developing risk models to inform the CDC when it would be appropriate to flip that switch and make the vaccine more widely available.
Amanda D’Ambrosio contributed to this report.