Declining monkeypox cases make health officials ‘cautiously optimistic’


After a three-month spike in monkeypox cases, the world is on the move amid evidence that gay men are curbing risky sex and more people are getting vaccinated against the virus, which is spread through close contact. epidemic may have reached its peak.

New cases of monkeypox in the United States have fallen by about 25% over the past two weeks, from 444 on Aug. 10 to 337 on Aug. 24, according to the Washington Post’s seven-day moving average. About 17,000 Americans have been diagnosed with monkeypox since monkeypox first appeared in mid-May, with cases overwhelmingly concentrated in men who have sex with men.

Globally, the number of new cases decreased by 21% from last week. The World Health Organization reported Thursday.

Public health experts welcomed the slowdown in new infections but warned the virus continued to pose risks. Infections can spread, especially in small, non-urban communities in the United States and in developing countries where vaccines are scarce, surveillance is limited, and testing is inadequate. gay and bisexual communities. Epidemiologists and health officials also report ongoing challenges with the White House’s new vaccine strategy to expand the number of doses available.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Thursday that “there are signs that the outbreak is slowing in Europe, where a combination of effective public health measures, behavioral changes and vaccination has helped prevent transmission.” Stated. But he warned that new cases continue to rise in places such as Latin America, where awareness of the virus is low and access to vaccines is limited.

Anne Limoyne, an epidemiologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who studies monkeypox outbreaks, said she expected a decline in cases after increased awareness and a push for vaccination. We don’t know if it will last,” she said.

Biden administration officials said they remained concerned about regional trends, as cases of the new virus in some areas outnumbered urban areas. According to state and local health department data, the number of monkeypox cases in Georgia he increased 66% between Aug. 10 and 24. During his two weeks, the number of cases in New York City, the epicenter of the epidemic in the United States, increased by just 41%.

New York City Health Commissioner Ashwin Bassan said officials were “cautiously optimistic” the virus was receding after it infected nearly 2,900 New Yorkers in the past three months. Last week, New York City diagnosed about 40 new cases per day, compared with more than 70 per day earlier this month.

“Recently, we’ve seen cases start to drop and transmission to slow down,” Vasan testified before the New York City Council on Wednesday, acknowledging increased vaccinations and changes in sexual behavior. is clearly taking hold and is having a positive effect in slowing this outbreak.” Officials in cities such as San Francisco and Chicago have echoed similar messages this week.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported this week that gay men have modified their risky sexual behavior because of the epidemic, and nearly half of the men who have sex with men said they had fewer one-off sexual encounters. It cited an online survey that said it had decreased as well. Sex with a partner you met on a dating app or sex venue. Experts say a flood of dance parties and casual sex during Pride Month activities in June likely accelerated the epidemic in the United States.

“By changing behavior along with vaccination, we can slow the spread of monkeypox and end the epidemic,” said a CDC spokesperson. Kristen Nordland said in a statement. She noted that U.S. data included information from many jurisdictions, “some of which continue to see increasing numbers of cases, and continued vigilance and action remain critical.” Did.

State and local health officials are urging the Biden administration to further assist in the response, saying additional funding is needed to raise public awareness. about the virus We will hire additional staff to conduct testing and conduct contact tracing, and make further investments to bolster the health sector, which has been battered by the two-year battle against the coronavirus.

“We appreciate the efforts of federal agencies to provide maximum flexibility to use COVID-19 grants to address this public health emergency,” state and territorial health officials said. In a letter to the White House, the association’s chief executive, Michael Fraser, said: Washington Post. “But given the scope and scale of the outbreak … it is clear that this short-term solution is not viable in the long term.”

Fraser told The Post that another $500 million to $1 billion will be needed to combat monkeypox in states and localities over the next 12 months. He suggested that the Biden administration work with Congress to create an emergency funding package or make more funds available through the CDC’s Epidemic Rapid Response Preparedness Fund.

Experts also continue to voice concerns about the Biden administration’s vaccine strategy, which was quickly completed on Aug. 9 and has been hailed by some local authorities as an innovative way to meet surging demand. welcomed. However, many state and local officials face logistical problems to implement it.

“We’ve heard multiple reports from state and local colleagues that extracting five doses from one vaccine vial is very difficult,” writes Caitlin Rivers, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University. I’m here. Posting on her Substack page last week, she criticized the sudden shift in strategy. “In total, state and local health officials now have up to a third of her. Few We have reduced the dosage for community use than before we transitioned to intradermal administration. “

The chairman of the Senate Health Committee also called on the Department of Health and Human Services to fill a “worrisome” supply gap in vaccines for both the current monkeypox response and future epidemics.

Sen. Patti Murray (D-Wash.) said in a letter to Dawn O on Tuesday: “HHS Assistant Secretary Connell overseeing the vaccine stockpile.

[Inside America’s monkeypox crisis — and the mistakes that made it worse]

The White House has defended its vaccination strategy, saying about 75% of jurisdictions nationwide have already adopted the new approach. We will be able to deliver more than 3 million doses of the vaccine. He spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing policies and internal conversations. CDC officials previously estimated that at least 3.2 million doses of the vaccine would be needed to cover gay and bisexual men, whom officials consider the most at risk.

Administrative officials also say many local officials have yet to fully deplete vaccine supplies, despite weeks of complaints about limited vaccine availability. As of Wednesday, only 11 of 67 jurisdictions nationwide have proven to be using at least 85% of their vaccine supply, according to White House officials.

Biden officials have avoided possible outbreaks, such as the recent incident in which an Illinois day care worker tested positive for monkeypox, potentially exposing about 60 people, including dozens of children. highlighted their efforts to This worker also served as a home health care assistant for one elderly person.

The situation alarmed the White House, and Biden administration officials, fearing an outbreak among children, rushed dozens of vaccines to those who might have been infected. There were no additional infections associated with daycare workers, Julie Pryde, administrator of the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, told The Post.

Lena H. Sun contributed to this report.

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