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The Monkeypox Spread: Person-to-Person?

Aired June 13, 2003 - 19:07   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: It is no cause for alarm, but serious concern is mounting over monkeypox. Now there are new reports -- have you heard these? -- that over a dozen children at a daycare center in Indiana have been infected.
CNN's medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen has details -- Elizabeth.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, here's the situation. It's a daycare in a private home in Indiana, and the owners decided that they would buy the children some pet prairie dogs to play with.

They thought the children would enjoy that. Unfortunately, they apparently got them from the same pet shop where other infected prairie dogs have come from -- where other prairie dogs have come from that have later given people monkeypox. And so what has happened is that both of those prairie dogs at the daycare center got sick and died. But before they got sick, the children played with them. One child from this daycare center has been in the hospital and is described as being extremely ill.

Another approximately 15 children came down with what could be the symptoms of monkeypox. They had lesions and some of the cough and some of the other symptoms. They have since recovered, and none of them ever got so sick that they actually had to be in the hospital. Their lesions are healing and they're all doing fine. The CDC is testing to see if any of those children actually had monkeypox.

Now if those children do have monkeypox, they got it from the prairie dogs. However, there is a difference situation in Wisconsin. There may be first cases in the United States of person-to-person transmission.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COHEN (voice-over): Here are the culprits, pet prairie dogs suspected of spreading monkeypox to people in Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and New Jersey. But now there may be another culprit, human beings. Two health care workers in Wisconsin, one at this hospital and one at a dermatologist's office, may have contracted the disease from their patients with monkeypox. Specimens are due to arrive at the Centers for Disease control today and results could be ready Saturday. If these health care workers really do have monkeypox...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's very important to point out this is fully expected.

COHEN: Monkeypox spreads person to person in Africa, where it kills up to 10 percent of its victims. The disease is not expected to be as deadly in the United States, where there are 72 cases under investigation, 13 of which have been laboratory confirmed. Some patients have been hospitalized but no one has died. Not as deadly because people in the United States who might have been exposed to monkeypox are being offered the smallpox vaccine. The two diseases are closely related.

(on camera): Since it does spread person to person, could it spread around the globe?

Could thereby another SARS type epidemic?

CDC officials say probably not.

(voice-over): That's because while monkeypox does spread person to person, it usually doesn't spread person to person to person.

DR. STEPHEN OSTROFF, CDC: This isn't a virus well adapted for transmission from human to human. So even if we do see cases like this occurring, after one or possibly two generations of this, it tends to burn itself out in humans. And so we don't think this would be a continuous or ongoing problem.

COHEN: And how do you know if you have monkeypox?

Symptoms include fever, muscle aches, rash, enlarged lymph nodes and exposure to exotic animals or to a person with monkeypox. So, if you haven't been playing with one of these recently or don't know anyone who has, then there is probably no way you monkeypox.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COHEN: Now the CDC says that if you have an exotic pet and it appears to be sick, don't just release into the wild. You'll have to call your veterinarian -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Elizabeth Cohen, thanks a lot for the update.

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