The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday scrubbed a recommendation that air travelers wear masks to protect against monkeypox, just days after posting the guidance on its website.
Monkeypox is a rare disease from the same viral family as smallpox, and has infected 31 people in the United States as of June 6th, mostly via sexual contact with an infected person. The CDC has suggested in an alert that the threat posed to the general population is “low” but has elevated the threat level from the virus to “Alert – Level 2, Practice Enhanced Precautions,” one step below an advisory to avoid non-essential travel.
“Cases of monkeypox have been reported in Europe, North America, South America, Africa, Asia, and Australia,” the CDC wrote in its alert. “Some cases were reported among men who have sex with men. Some cases were also reported in people who live in the same household as an infected person.”
The mask recommendation was added to the “Travelers’ Health” page on the CDC’s website last week, reported The Washington Times. As recently as Monday the page read: “Wear a mask. Wearing a mask can help protect you from many diseases, including monkeypox.” As of Tuesday that portion of the page was removed.
According to The Washington Times, a spokesperson for the CDC did not immediately respond to a request for clarification on the guidance. It is not clear if the guidance has been reversed. Presently the CDC still recommends that individuals infected with monkeypox wear surgical masks during quarantine to avoid infecting other members of their household.
Mask mandates have been a subject of considerable controversy in recent months. In April a federal judge struck down the national mask mandate on airports, airplanes, and other types of mass transportation, arguing that the mandate “exceeded the CDC’s statutory authority” and was “unlawful.” The Biden Administration described that decision as “disappointing,” and the Department of Justice, at the recommendation of the CDC, is attempting to appeal that ruling.