Federal officials are working to mitigate and control monkeypox as the number of cases has risen in the country and worldwide since the outbreak began last month.
There are currently more than 700 cases of monkeypox worldwide and 20 in the United States (and another that has been “infected and tested elsewhere,” an official said) among 11 states as of Friday. There are still no deaths and the strain of the virus is less severe, but federal officials, along with local partners, are still stepping up efforts to curb the virus by testing, tracking contacts and treatment options.
“As part of our response, [the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] developed public health guidelines and clinical guidelines and released laboratory testing guidelines, “said Captain Jennifer McQueston, deputy director of the CDC’s Department of Highly Pathogenic Pathology and Pathology, at a briefing Friday. “The CDC has developed protocols for the use of vaccines and antivirals to treat and prevent monkeypox. She added that more information can be found at CDC Monkey Morbidity and Mortality Report published on Friday and on the agency’s website.
Currently, the cases in the United States are mostly among those who have traveled recently and identify as gay, bisexual, or other men who have sex with men.
“So, in addition to broad advocacy efforts, we are also focusing our efforts on raising awareness within the LGBTQ + community,” McQueston said.
Mitigation of the virus comes down to “testing, tracking and timely vaccines and treatments,” said Raj Punjabi, senior director of global health security and biosecurity at the White House.
He said the Biden administration’s response to the epidemic was driven by empathy, justice, science and transparency.
So far, more than 120 PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests have been performed across the country, and there are 67 laboratories in 46 states that can do more than 1,000 tests a day, Punjabi said.
During a briefing on May 23, federal public health officials discussed the vaccine and treatment options for monkeypox, which includes approximately how much of each vaccine option is in the strategic national stockpile.
However, during a conversation Friday, officials said they could not discuss the numbers for security reasons, and McQueston said the availability of the vaccine had “shifted” and previous figures were inaccurate. However, officials said there are many vaccines for those who need them.
So far, 1,200 vaccines and 100 courses of treatment have been delivered to eight jurisdictions, Punjabi said.
One vaccine option, Jynneos, is a two-dose regimen, and the other ACAM2000 is an “older generation smallpox vaccine that has some potentially significant side effects with it, so the solution for widespread use should have some a serious discussion behind it, “McQueston said during a conversation in May.
To date, only one state has requested ACAM2000, which government officials, along with medical experts, have decided is the best treatment, said Dawn O’Connell, assistant secretary of preparedness and response in the health and human services department.
Monkeypox was first discovered in 1958, and the first case in humans was discovered in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. While cases of monkeypox have been found mainly in West and Central African countries, it has not been unheard of for cases to originate elsewhere.
The United States had its first outbreak of monkeypox in 2003, which was linked to infected domestic prairie dogs. There are 47 confirmed and probable cases. There has been a recurrence of monkeypox in Nigeria in the last five years, leading to at least eight known cases of it.
Countries with current cases of monkeypox are not endemic for the monkeypox virus, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adanom Gebreyesus said earlier this week.
“Investigations are ongoing,” he said. “But the sudden appearance of monkeypox in many countries at the same time suggests that there may have been an undiscovered transmission for some time.”