CDC Director Rochelle Walensky confirmed the cases during a press briefing.
“These cases were suspected by local clinicians. They were identified by local laboratories and triggered local public health action to help with treatment and management of any potential contacts,” Walensky said.
Cases have been identified in California, Florida, Massachusetts, New York, Utah, Virginia and Washington.
The clinical samples of these suspected cases were also tested by the CDC for confirmatory testing.
According to Walensky, some, not all, of the cases were linked to individuals who had traveled to areas with active monkeypox outbreaks. The cases in the U.S. have been found in men who have sex with men, though Walensky stressed that the risk of exposure is “not limited to any one particular group.”
“Stigma and discrimination in public health results in decreased access to care, ongoing disease transmission and a blunted response to outbreaks and threats,” said the CDC director. “So I urge everyone to approach this outbreak without stigma and without discrimination.”
The U.S. has two vaccines and two antiviral treatments that can be used for orthopox infections, a family of viruses within which monkeypox falls. One vaccine called Jynneos has already been mobilized to be sent to states with confirmed cases.
The officials on Thursday also emphasized that tests available for orthopox viruses are believed to be accurate and sufficient for handling the current spread of cases.
“A monkeypox outbreak of this scale and scope across the world, it has not been seen before,” Raj Panjabi, the White House’s senior director for global health security and biodefense, said at the press briefing.
Monkeypox is primarily spread through the characteristic skin lesions that develop in people who are infected. A person is considered to be infectious until these lesions are fully healed. It is spread mostly through close contact with an infected person, their clothing or their bedsheets.
CDC epidemiologist Jennifer McQuiston said measures such as condoms likely wouldn’t protect against monkeypox as the disease is spread through skin-to-skin, not necessarily just through sexual contact, as monkeypox rashes can be widespread across the face and body.