Monkeypox has peaked but isn’t going away
Some U.S. health officials are conceding that monkeypox is probably not going away anytime soon.
The disease’s spread is slowing but the virus is so widespread that elimination is unlikely, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. That conclusion was in a recent CDC report, and echoed Friday by Marc Lipsitch, director of science in the agency’s disease-forecasting center.
Lipsitch hesitated to say monkeypox is permanently here to stay, but he said it stands to be a continuing threat for the next few years.
The virus has mainly spread among gay and bisexual men, though health officials continue to stress that anyone can be infected. It’s important that people at risk take steps to prevent spread and that vaccination efforts continue, Lipsitch said.
The CDC report contained some good news: The U.S. outbreak seems to have peaked in early August. The average number of daily cases being reported — fewer than 150 — is about a third what it was reported in the middle of the summer, and officials expect the decline will continue for at least the next several weeks.
Lipsitch attributed the good news to increasing vaccinations, cautious behavior by people at risk and infection-derived immunity in the highest risk populations.
There have been more than 67,000 cases reported in countries that have not historically seen monkeypox. The U.S. has the most infections of any country — more than 25,600. One U.S. death has been attributed to monkeypox.
More than 97% of U.S. cases are men. The vast majority have been men who reported recent sexual contact with other men.
Though cases have been declining, the proportion of new cases that have information about recent sexual contact is also down, officials said. That’s causing a growing blind spot about how the virus may be spreading, Lipsitch noted.
The Associated Press Health & Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.