The Biden administration declared the monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency as a new study of cases thus far in the United States found that the virus has “disproportionately affected” men in the LGTBQ community along with racial and ethnic minority groups.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention update on Thursday, there were 7,102 confirmed monkeypox cases in the United States, with New York, California, Florida, Illinois, Texas, and Georgia leading the case counts.
Worldwide, there were 26,864 confirmed cases as of Thursday, with only 345 of those cases in countries with a history of monkeypox. Eighty-one countries with no historical reports of monkeypox are now reporting cases, mainly in Europe and the United States.
“Ending the monkeypox outbreak is a critical priority for the Biden-Harris Administration. We are taking our response to the next level by declaring a public health emergency,” Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said Thursday. “With today’s declaration we can further strengthen and accelerate our response further.”
White House National Monkeypox Response Coordinator Robert Fenton added in the statement that “we are applying lessons learned from the battles we’ve fought – from COVID response to wildfires to measles, and will tackle this outbreak with the urgency this moment demands.”
The public health emergency, which coincides with the Food and Drug Administration’s exploration of ways to stretch the vaccine supply including a “dose-sparing approach,” also “carries important implications for data sharing with the federal government,” HHS said. “Fifty-one jurisdictions have already signed data use agreements that will provide the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with information related to vaccine administration. Declaring the outbreak an emergency may provide the justification that the remaining jurisdictions need to sign their agreements. Additionally, it provides authorities to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to collect testing and hospitalization data.”
CDC released today a study of 41 percent of total monkeypox cases in the United States from May 17 through July 22 as this was the number that submitted case report forms to the agency; 99 percent of those cases occurred in men, 94 percent of whom reported recent male-to-male sexual or close intimate contact within the three weeks before their symptoms began.
Among the cases with available data, 41 percent were among non-Hispanic whites, 28 percent were Hispanic, and 26 percent were Black. The median age of patients was 35 years old. “Data suggest that widespread community transmission of monkeypox has disproportionately affected gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men and racial and ethnic minority groups,” the report said. “…The proportion of cases among Black persons has increased during recent weeks. Ensuring equity in approaches to monkeypox testing, treatment, and prevention is critical, and taking actions to minimize stigma related to monkeypox can reduce barriers to seeking care and prevention.”
From May 17 to July 2, 51 percent of cases with available data were locally acquired as opposed to travel-related; from May 17 to July 2, the locally acquired cases rose to 82 percent. The most frequently reported signs and symptoms included rash, fever, chills, and swollen lymph nodes.
“Public health efforts should prioritize gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men, who are currently disproportionately affected, for prevention and testing, address equity, and minimize stigma, while maintaining vigilance for transmission in other populations,” the report said.
CDC recommends vaccination “for people who have been exposed to monkeypox and people who may be more likely to get monkeypox,” including who have been identified by public health officials as a contact of someone with monkeypox, people who are aware that one of their sexual partners in the past 2 weeks has been diagnosed with monkeypox, people who had multiple sexual partners in the past 2 weeks in an area with known monkeypox, and lab workers who may be exposed to the virus along with some healthcare workers.
“The preferred vaccine to protect against monkeypox is JYNNEOS, which is a two-dose vaccine. It takes 14 days after getting the second dose of JYNNEOS for its immune protection to reach its maximum,” CDC says. “The ACAM2000 vaccine may be an alternative to JYNNEOS. ACAM2000 is a single-dose vaccine, and it takes four weeks after vaccination for its immune protection to reach its maximum. However, it has the potential for more side effects and adverse events than JYNNEOS. It is not recommended for people with severely weakened immune systems and several other conditions.”
As of Thursday, HHS said it had has shipped more than 602,000 doses of the JYNNEOS vaccine to states and jurisdictions, with “accelerated… delivery of an additional 150,000 doses to arrive in the U.S. next month.”