CDC removes mask recommendation from monkeypox travel alert: 4 updates

The CDC quietly removed a recommendation that people wear masks from its monkeypox travel alert June 6, The New York Times reported June 7. 

In travel guidance updated last week, the agency said, "Wearing a mask can help protect you from many diseases, including monkeypox." 

The CDC in a June 7 statement to the Times said it "removed the mask recommendation from the monkeypox travel health notice because it caused confusion." 

The alert says the "risk to the general public is low," and that travelers should avoid contact with sick people, avoid contact with contaminated materials used by sick people such as clothing, and avoid contact with dead or live wild animals. 

While much of the public discourse surrounding monkeypox transmission so far has focused on skin and other close forms of contact, the CDC's guidance reversal underscores that the virus can be transmitted — at least to some extent — through aerosols. 

Since the virus can only travel short distances, airborne transmission is thought to be a small factor in the overall spread, but there are no hard estimates on how much this mode of transmission contributes to spread, experts told the Times

 "This is not a virus that was transmitted over several meters," Andrea McCollum, PhD, the CDC's leading expert on monkeypox, told the Times. "That's why we have to be really careful how to frame this," emphasizing that contracting monkeypox requires "really close sustained contact." 

On its infection control guidance page for monkeypox, the CDC advises infected patients, "especially those who have respiratory symptoms," to wear a surgical mask. "Other household members should consider wearing a surgical mask when in the presence of the person with monkeypox." 

Three more updates: 

1. A total of 35 monkeypox cases across 14 states and Washington, D.C., were confirmed in the U.S. as of June 7. Globally, cases have surpassed 1,000. 

2. Health officials on June 3 said all patients in the U.S. are in recovery or have recovered. At that time, the CDC had confirmed 21 monkeypox cases in the U.S. 

3. HHS on June 6 said the U.S. has more than 36,000 does of the Jynneos monkeypox vaccine immediately available in the national stockpile, CNBC reported. Bavarian Nordic, which manufactures the Jynneos vaccine, is holding more than 1 million U.S. owned doses and can fill 16.4 million more doses upon government request. The U.S. also has more than 100 million doses of ACAM2000, an older generation smallpox vaccine that can have serious side effects. The CDC generally recommends Jynneos over the latter.

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