Window to control monkeypox may be closing in US

Illustration of monkeypox viruses
Illustration of monkeypox viruses

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As the United States confirms 1,814 monkeypox cases from 45 states, some public health experts are expressing fears that the virus is becoming entrenched in the country, and the window to control the outbreak and eliminate the virus from the country is closing quickly.

Several media outlets over the weekend reported that access to treatments and vaccines is still far from streamlined, with doctors required to make formal requests from the national stockpile each time they wish to treat a patient with Tpoxx, an antiviral used to treat smallpox that can also be used for monkeypox.

Former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, said on talk shows yesterday that the window for controlling monkeypox in the United States has probably closed and said the official US total is only a small fraction of the cases in the country.

"We're now at the cusp of this becoming an endemic virus, with this now become something that's persistent that we need to continue to deal with," Gottlieb said.

In the New York Times, people who have contracted the virus recount waiting days for test results and hours in the emergency department before receiving a diagnosis. What's more, despite having the most cases as any US city, New York City is still in short supply of vaccines.

The FDA is urging providers to test for monkeypox by taking swab samples of lesions from patients with suspected cases.

"The FDA is not aware of clinical data supporting the use of other sample types, such as blood or saliva, for monkeypox virus testing. Testing samples not taken from a lesion may lead to false test results," the agency said.

Sonic Healthcare begins offering tests

In other testing news, Sonic Healthcare of Austin, Texas, is the fifth commercial lab to offer the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) non-variola orthopoxvirus, high-complexity NAAT polymerase chain reaction assay, or monkeypox test.

The Biden administration announced earlier this month that public partnerships with labs would increase testing capacity quickly across the country.

The federal government also announced another big purchase of Jynneos, the monkeypox vaccine, late last week. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said an additional 2.5 million doses would be entered into the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) in early 2023.

The purchase brings the federal government's available supply of vaccine to treat monkeypox to nearly 7 million doses by mid-2023.

Since late May, HHS has made more than 300,000 doses available to states and territories.

The European Union has secured 54,000 more doses of Jynneos. The union has so far delivered around 25,000 doses to six member states, according to Reuters.

Europe continues to be the epicenter of the monkeypox outbreak. Globally, there are 13,094 confirmed cases of the disease, with Spain (2,835), Germany (1,924), and the United Kingdom (1,856) reporting the highest case counts.

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