A suspected case of the rare monkeypox virus is receiving treatment at New York City's Bellevue Hospital. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
May 20 (UPI) -- Health officials in New York City said they are investigating a possible monkeypox infection as Canada confirms its first-ever cases of the disease.
The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said in a brief statement Thursday night that the patient was being cared for at Bellevue Hospital.
"Our Public Health Lab will conduct preliminary tests, which -- if positive -- will be sent to [the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] for confirmatory testing," it said.
The announcement came days after a Massachusetts man who recently visited Canada's Quebec province was confirmed as the United States' first case of the virus for the year.
The Public Health Agency of Canada has launched an investigation to identify contacts of the U.S. patient and said in a statement that it confirmed Thursday night two monkeypox cases in the province -- the first to be confirmed in the country.
The province's Ministry of Health and Social Services said it has about 20 potential cases under investigation.
"Epidemiological investigations are continuing to determine the links between reported cases and identify potentially at-risk contacts and inform them of protective measures," the MSSS said in a statement.
Monkeypox is a rare zoonotic infectious disease found in Central and West Africa that produces symptoms similar to though weaker than the eradicated smallpox. It has an incubation period of 14 days, after which fever, headache, muscle aches and swollen lymph nodes, among other symptoms, arise, according to the CDC.
Between one and three days after the patient experiences a fever, a rash develops often on the face that spreads to other parts of the body and lesions form, it said, adding the illness usually lasts from two to four weeks.
The Canadian health agency said person-to-person spread of the disease is uncommon but does occur through coming into close contact with a person infected with monkeypox, such as through contact with body fluids, respiratory droplets or monkeypox sores.
"PHAC has alerted public health authorities to work with healthcare providers to look for patients who have signs or symptoms consistent with monkeypox, regardless of whether they have reported travel or have specific risk factors for monkeypox," it said.
The announcement was made as several cases of the disease have been confirmed in Europe.
The first cases were diagnosed early this month by Britain, which now has at least nine confirmed cases.
British health authorities said that at least two of the cases had no tralve links to a country where monkeypox is endemic, "so it is possible they acquired the infection through community transmission."
Portuguese health officials said it has more than 20 suspected cases under investigation, including five that were confirmed earlier this week.
In Spain's capital of Madrid, officials said Wednesday they have detected 23 possible monkeypox infections in the region.