Some officials now say monkeypox elimination is unlikely in the US

NEW YORK (AP) — Some US health officials admit monkeypox is unlikely to go away anytime soon.

The spread of the disease is slowing, but the virus is so widespread that elimination is unlikely, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That conclusion was stated in a recent CDC report, and reiterated Friday by Marc Lipsitch, director of science at the agency’s Center for Disease Prediction.

Lipsitch was hesitant to say that monkeypox is permanently here to stay, but he said it will pose an ongoing threat for years to come.

“It’s in many geographic locations in the country,” as well as in other countries, Lipsitch told The Associated Press. “There is no clear path in our minds to complete elimination domestically.”

The virus has mainly spread among gay and bisexual men, although health officials continue to emphasize that anyone can become infected. It’s important that people at risk take steps to prevent the spread and that vaccination efforts continue, Lipsitch said.

The CDC report had some good news: The outbreak in the US appears to have peaked in early August. The average number of daily cases reported – less than 150 – is about a third of what it was reported in mid-summer, and officials expect the decline to continue in the coming weeks.

Lipsitch attributed the good news to increasing vaccinations, cautious behavior from people at risk and infection-derived immunity in the highest-risk populations.

dr. Tom Inglesby, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, agreed that the short-term spread of monkeypox in the US is unlikely to stop, but he said it’s still possible in the long run.

If domestic transmission were stopped, infections could still continue if people contract the virus while traveling internationally, he said. But the declining cases make it seem like “we’ve turned a real corner”.

“Ongoing efforts are succeeding and should be continued, if not intensified,” he said.

With the number of cases falling, now is a good time for local health departments to make another attempt at intensive contact tracing to try and stop the transmission chains, he said.

Monkeypox is endemic to parts of Africa, where humans have been infected through bites from rodents or small animals, but it was not considered a disease that spreads easily among humans until May, when infections began to crop up in Europe and the US.

More than 67,000 cases have been reported in countries that have not seen monkeypox in the past. The US has the most infections of all countries: more than 25,600. One American death has been attributed to monkey pox.

More than 97% of cases in the US are male. The vast majority are men who have reported recent sexual contact with other men.

While the number of cases has declined, so has the number of new cases containing information about recent sexual contact, officials said. That’s causing a growing blind spot about how the virus might be spreading, Lipsitch noted.

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The Associated Press Health & Science Department is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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