US Monkeypox Outbreak May Be Slowing, Experts Say

Carolyn Crist

August 29, 2022

Monkeypox case counts appear to be slowing down in the U.S., which has the highest number of known cases globally.

Vaccines and community outreach efforts are leading to declines in New York City, health officials told The Wall Street Journal.  In San Francisco, wastewater samples show that the concentration of monkeypox virus has stabilized in recent weeks. The rate of new cases also appears to be falling in Europe.

"We've started to see globally that we might be turning the corner," Rochelle Walensky, MD, the CDC director, told the newspaper.

Public health experts expressed caution about whether the monkeypox outbreak has peaked since community outreach efforts are ongoing, which can lead to the finding of more cases.

For instance, cases among Black and Hispanic men have been rising in recent weeks, even as the overall rate of new cases is on the decline, Walensky said. She noted the importance of providing vaccines evenly among at-risk people, as well as educating college students. Some cases have emerged on campuses as classes resumed in recent weeks.

"If anything, we need to continue to strongly communicate and educate the public about this pathogen," Rodney Rohde, PhD, a public health expert at Texas State University, told the newspaper.

Since May, more than 47,600 monkeypox cases have been reported in 99 countries, including 47,200 in 92 countries that haven't historically reported the virus, according to the latest CDC data.

The U.S. has reported the highest number of cases, with more than 17,400, followed by Spain with 6,400, Brazil with nearly 4,000, and France, Germany, and the U.K. with more than 3,000. Other countries have reported 1,300 or fewer cases.

In the U.S., California has reported nearly 3,300 cases, followed closely by New York with 3,100 cases, according to the latest CDC data. After that, Florida has reported 1,700, Texas has reported nearly 1,500, Georgia has reported 1,300, and Illinois has reported 1,000. The other states have reported fewer than 500 cases.

The World Health Organization said last week the number of new cases worldwide declined by 21% between Aug. 15 to 21 after 4 straight weeks  of increases. The drop could indicate that cases are falling in Europe, though that needs to be confirmed, WHO officials said. The U.S. accounted for 60% of the world's monkeypox cases that week.

A proactive response among at-risk communities has helped to slow the spread of the virus, health experts told the Journal. According to recent surveys, a significant number of men who have sex with men have changed their behavior due to the outbreak, with many saying they reduced the number of sex partners and one-time sexual encounters.

"The LGBTQ+ community is doing things to reduce their risk, and it's working," Demetre Daskalakis, one of the White House monkeypox response coordinators, told the newspaper.

As the outbreak continues, public health officials are focused on reaching unvaccinated people in high-risk communities, college students on campuses as the fall semester kicks off, and at-risk people in rural areas who may be exposed.

Protection is highest 2 weeks after receiving a second shot of the vaccine, the CDC said. Federal health officials have said there will soon be enough vaccines available to give two shots to every at-risk person in the U.S., the newspaper reported.

Sources:

The Wall Street Journal: "Monkeypox Cases Show Signs of Decreasing in U.S. and Globally."

CDC: "2022 Monkeypox Outbreak Global Map, updated Aug. 26, 2022."

CDC: "Monkeypox: 2022 U.S. Map & Case Count, updated Aug. 26, 2022."

WHO: "Multi-country outbreak of monkeypox, external situation report #4 – 24 August 2022."

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