Monkeypox outbreak slows in US, but health officials say critical challenges remain |  CNN

Monkeypox outbreak slows in US, but health officials say critical challenges remain | CNN


New cases of monkeypox in the United States have steadily declined in recent weeks, with cases reported in the first week of September reduced to about half of what they were at their peak a month ago. .

But the recent death of a Los Angeles County resident — the first attributed to monkeypox in the United States — is a tragic reminder that the outbreak is ongoing and still poses risks.

“There is some hope that these cases will stabilize. It should be no one’s comfort that this epidemic is over,” said David Harvey, executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors, during a Tuesday briefing.

“We still need to step up our efforts to respond to this epidemic. And there are still many, many data questions, clinical care questions, research questions that have yet to be answered about this very unusual outbreak of a virus that has been known for decades that presents very differently in the states -United.

Deaths from monkeypox are extremely rare and often affect babies, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems, such as HIV. This year, the World Health Organization has reported 22 deaths among around 58,000 cases. About 22,000 of these cases have been reported in the United States.

“In July, the CDC estimated that it took eight days for cases to double nationwide. By mid-August, the doubling rate was 25 days, showing encouraging signs of progress,” Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, deputy White House monkeypox response coordinator, said last week.

But Harvey and other public health officials warned Tuesday that those on the front lines of the response — including local health departments, epidemiologists and clinics that treat sexually transmitted infections — don’t have adequate resources. to ensure continuous improvement.

And there is a “very large immunocompromised population in the United States” who will be at high risk if the epidemic continues, said Dr. Cesar Arias, board member of the Infectious Disease Society of America and chief of infectious diseases at Houston Methodist Hospital, said during the briefing.

Other major areas of concern cited by US public health officials during Tuesday’s briefing include inequitable vaccination, access to testing and incomplete surveillance data.

They called on Congress to immediately make significant funding available to address the outbreak, defending the Biden administration’s demand that approximately $4 billion in funding be allocated to the monkeypox response in the next bill. government funding law as one of the “four critical needs”, with support. for Ukraine, the Covid-19 response and recovery from a natural disaster.

The funding request comes a day before federal leaders – including the director of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci – don’t speak before the Senate Health and Education Committee. , Work and Pensions on the Federal Response to the Monkeypox Outbreak.

Public health officials attribute the slowing rate of new cases to vaccination and behavioral changes among those most at risk. Men who have sex with men have been disproportionately affected by the outbreak, and about half said they took steps to protect themselves and their partners, according to the CDC.

But for this promising trend to continue, continued work and investment is needed, especially to reach underrepresented groups, health officials say.

“In many ways, the initial and easy work has been done. Now, local health departments need to be more creative, reaching deeper into their hardest-to-reach communities with messaging, education, vaccines, testing and treatment,” said Lori Tremmel Freeman, Chief Executive Officer. of the National Association of County and City. Health officials.

CDC data shows people of color make up a disproportionate share of cases but are underrepresented among those vaccinated.

More than half of new cases of monkeypox in the past two months have been in blacks and Hispanics, but only about a third of the first vaccine doses have been given to individuals in these groups, according to a CNN analysis of CDC data. .

The White House Monkeypox Response Team addressed these inequalities last month, pointing to efforts to offer vaccinations at large-scale events and festivals as a strategy to reduce them.

“With the increase in vaccine supply, I think we have a new opportunity in the strategy of getting the vaccine to people instead of trying to get people to find vaccines,” said Daskalakis.

Last week, Daskalakis noted that case rates were slowing in the hardest-hit parts of the country, including New York, Texas, California and Illinois.

But local public health officials have stressed the need for a broader perspective.

“We can’t ease off the throttle just because big cities have the wherewithal to mount a robust response, leaving smaller rural communities to fend for themselves,” Harvey said.

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