The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are making plans to step up production and distribution of lab tests that can detect monkeypox in the event that the outbreak of the disease, which is related to smallpox, becomes more widespread.

According to CNN, 74 facilities in 46 states already use a monkeypox test that has received Food and Drug Administration approval and can process approximately 7,000 of those tests per week.

Johns Hopkins University scholar Dr Amesh Adalja told the network that the existing lab capacity was developed in preparation for a biological weapons attack using smallpox, which is thought to be extinct outside of frozen samples in Russian and American laboratories.

Both monkeypox and smallpox belong to the same group of viruses, called orthopox viruses.

Dr Adalja said smallpox remains “the most worrisome” of that category.

The CDC has its own monkeypox test that is “more specific” for monkeypox and can perform the kind of genetic sequencing needed to determine whether different cases are caused by the same virus.

But Dr Jennifer McQuiston, a veterinarian who runs the CDC’s high consequence pathogens division, said testing isn’t necessarily required to diagnose and treat monkeypox, though she called it an “actionable test” that can give a doctor cause to isolate a patient and make treatments or vaccines available while starting the contact tracing process.