The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed that two U.S. children have contracted the monkeypox virus, saying that the children can be traced back to people from the “gay men’s community.”
“Both of those children are traced back to individuals who come from the men-who-have-sex-with-men community, the gay men’s community,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said at a Washington Post-hosted event on Friday.
Walensky said that infections may be the result of household transmission. She did not elaborate on the link but said that the two children’s cases are unrelated and occurred in California and Washington, D.C.
“While both children have monkeypox symptoms, they are in good health,” Walensky said. The children, whose ages were not provided by the CDC, are receiving antiviral treatments for the disease. Officials told CNN that one case involves a toddler who is a resident of California, while the other is an infant who isn’t a U.S. resident.
Public health officials are investigating how the two kids became infected, Walensky said.
“The social networks that we have as humans mean that we have contact with a lot of different people,” said Dr. Jennifer McQuiston, deputy director of the CDC’s Division of High Consequence Pathogens and Pathology, during the event. “And while this outbreak is spreading in a particular social network right now, I think we’ve messaged from the start that there could be cases that occur outside those networks and that we need to be vigilant for it and ready to respond and message about it.”
Elaborating, McQuiston said that in Europe “they have reported cases in children, in women … and I think the same thing is happening and expected to happen here in the United States.”
On Saturday, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus ruled that monkeypox is a global emergency despite a lack of consensus among experts on the U.N. health agency’s emergency committee, claiming he acted as “a tiebreaker.” It was the first time a U.N. health agency chief has unilaterally made such a decision without an expert recommendation.
“We have an outbreak that has spread around the world rapidly through new modes of transmission, about which we understand too little,” Tedros said. “I know this has not been an easy or straightforward process and that there are divergent views.”
Regarding the outbreak, Tedros primarily focused his attention on homosexual males.
“Although I am declaring a public health emergency of international concern for the moment, this is an outbreak that is concentrated among” homosexuals and “especially those with multiple sexual partners,” he said.
The WHO’s emergencies chief, Dr. Michael Ryan, said the director-general declared monkeypox a global emergency to ensure that the world takes the current outbreaks seriously.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.