CDC director: Expect more monkeypox cases in coming weeks

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, said today that the monkeypox outbreak in the United States will likely get worse in the coming weeks as thousands of more tests are made available to clinicians across the country.

In an hour-long press conference, Walensky was joined by members from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to address testing, transmission, and vaccination against the virus.

"We have the capacity for testing," Walensky said. "Now we must look to clinicians and colleagues to make sure proper screening and counseling are taking place."

Of 700 cases in the United States with available demographic information, Walensky said almost all were among men who have sex with men (MSM). She cautioned that this group—which will be among the first to be offered Jynneos, a monkeypox vaccine—must understand they are not fully protected from the virus until 2 weeks after their second dose of the vaccine.

"One dose is not enough," said Walensky. She also urged MSM to minimize anonymous sex and sex with multiple partners as the outbreak is ongoing.

131,000 new vaccine doses available to states

In total, the federal government has distributed 160,000 vaccine doses to states. Walensky emphasized throughout the press conference the distribution of vaccine will be equitable and given to places currently seeing the highest number of cases.

Today HHS also said an addition 131,000 doses will be made available to order from states for delivery starting next week.

Until then, Walensky said MSM should be made aware of transmission dynamics by clinicians. Close skin-to-skin contact, fact-to-face contact via kissing, and sharing contaminated objects are all likely the main ways the virus is spreading, she said.

She also noted that testing currently requires the presence of lesions on a person, because those lesions must be swabbed to look for the virus.

The United States currently has 1,470 cases from 44 jurisdictions, an increase of 417 from yesterday.

In related news, Food and Drug Administration inspectors have completed their inspection of a Bavarian Nordic plant in Denmark, which paves the way for the US to receive thousands more doses of the Jynneos vaccine.

UK sees more cases as Africa warns of zoonotic diseases

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said 121 new cases of monkeypox were reported in the last day, raising the total to 1,856 confirmed cases in the United Kingdom. Of these, 1,778 are in England.

Also, a new analysis from the World Health Organization (WHO) suggests Africa is facing a growing threat of zoonotic diseases such as monkeypox, which could be due to population growth, a bigger demand for food, and encroachment on wildlife population areas.

"There has been a 63% increase in the number of zoonotic outbreaks in the region in the decade from 2012-2022 compared to 2001-2011," the WHO said. "Ebola Virus Disease and other viral hemorrhagic fevers constitute nearly 70% of these outbreaks; with dengue fever, anthrax, plague, monkeypox and a range of other diseases making up the remaining 30%."

Cases of monkeypox across Africa have been rising since 2017—so far this year there have been 2,087.

Before the last decade, "Poor transport infrastructure acted as a natural barrier," said Matshidiso Moeti, MD, the WHO Regional Director for Africa. "However, with improved transportation in Africa, there is an increased threat of zoonotic pathogens traveling to large urban centres. We must act now to contain zoonotic diseases before they can cause widespread infections and stop Africa from becoming a hotspot for emerging infectious diseases."

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