There are now more than 16,600 known cases of monkeypox across the U.S., and the numbers are rising as the country races to contain the outbreak before the disease takes root. Cases have been reported in all 50 states, Washington DC and Puerto Rico. No deaths have been reported in the US
California and New York state both report more than 3,000 cumulative cases the highest in the country. Los Angeles County makes up about 44% of California’s total.
Here in LA, the monkeypox outbreak has risen to 1,349 people. That’s an increase of more than 300 people in less than a week, but that’s actually an improvement. A month ago, cases of monkeypox in LA were doubling every nine days. It now takes 16 days for cases to double, indicating that new cases of monkeypox can be level.
“We are cautiously optimistic that this will be true and that it will hold,” said Dr. Rita Singhal, chief medical officer for the LA County Department of Public Health, at a press conference Thursday. “It’s leveling off, I wouldn’t say it’s going down yet,” she added.
Similar trends are being seen in the countries where the outbreak first began, and in other jurisdictions across the US, she said.
Why the spread is slowing
Dr. Singhal pointed to three reasons why transmission may be starting to slow: increased availability of vaccines, men having sex with men are said to modify their behavior to avoid high-risk situations and how the virus spreads.
“It’s not as easily transmitted as COVID, it requires prolonged close contact,” said Dr. Sinhalese. “When you have an infectious agent like that, it’s going to burn out faster when it’s out in a community or among a group of people.”
Although anyone can be infected with monkeypox, gay and bisexual men who have had multiple sexual partners are at the highest risk in this outbreak, according to health authorities. LA County Public Health data show that about 98% of people who test positive are men, and 30 to 39-year-olds account for nearly half of all cases.
While a large proportion of monkeypox cases in the current outbreak are believed to have been contracted through sexual contact, the virus is not a sexually transmitted infection and can be spread through any prolonged contact with the skin, clothing or bedding of an infected individual. .
Recommended preventive measures
Health officials recommend avoiding close physical contact – sexual and non-sexual – with people who have symptoms of an illness, sore or rash.
It’s also possible to get infected from someone who doesn’t have a sore or rash. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is a period of three to 17 days during which someone can be infected but not yet show symptoms.
Earlier this week, Public Health expanded the acceptability of the monkeypox vaccine. of extended criteria now includes people of any gender or sexual orientation who, in the past two weeks, have had transactional sex in exchange for food, money, shelter or other goods. Also added are gay or bisexual men who have recently had skin-to-skin contact or intimate contact, such as hugging or kissing, in large settings or events.
The announcement opens the door for more women to be vaccinated – until recently only women who had close contacts were eligible.
The Jynneos vaccine is still available to people who meet the previous eligibility criteria, including men who have sex with men or a transgender person and who have been diagnosed with gonorrhea or early syphilis in the past 12 months, are on pre-exposure prophylaxis against HIV (PrEP) or had anonymous sex or multiple partners within the last 21 days.
LA County received another 41,300 doses of the Jynneos vaccine this week. Qualified people can register for a vaccination here.
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Jackie Fortiér helps Southern Californians understand the pandemic by identifying what’s working and what’s not in our health response.