US monkeypox cases may have gone undetected, health official says

Genetic analysis has suggested that there are two distinct strains of monkeypox  in the United States, public health officials said, raising the possibility that cases may have previously gone “under the radar”.

Jennifer McQuiston, an official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told reporters on Friday that more research needs to be conducted to determine how long the virus the has been circulating in the country.

“I think it’s certainly possible that there could have been monkeypox cases in the United States that went under the radar previously, but not to any great degree,” she said.

Still, she added, “there could be community-level transmission that is happening” in parts of the US where the virus has not yet been identified.

The CDC said it is likely more cases will be reported.

Dr Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada, said the findings suggest that the virus will be harder to contain.

“We don’t really have a good sense of how many cases there are out there,” Rasmussen told The Associated Press news agency.

Monkeypox, which does not usually spread easily among people, is endemic in parts of Africa, where it has been transmitted through bites from small animals.

Last month, Europe and the United States started detecting cases of the virus cases. Health officials in many countries are investigating monkeypox transmission.