NEW YORK — Some US health officials are admitting that monkeypox probably won’t go away any time soon.
The spread of the disease is slowing, but the virus is so widespread that it is unlikely to be eliminated, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. That conclusion is found in a recent CDC report, echoed on Friday by Marc Lipsitch, director of science at the agency’s center for disease forecasting.
Lipsitch was hesitant to say monkeypox is here to stay permanently, but said it will remain an ongoing threat for years to come.
“It’s in many geographic locations within the country” as well as in other countries, Lipsitch told The Associated Press. “There is no clear path in our minds to complete elimination at the national level.”
The virus has spread primarily among gay and bisexual men, though health officials continue to stress that anyone can become infected. It’s important that people at risk take steps to prevent the spread and continue vaccination efforts, Lipsitch said.
The CDC report contained some good news: The US outbreak appears to have peaked in early August. The average number of daily cases being reported, less than 150, is about a third of what was reported in mid-summer, and officials expect the decline to continue for at least the next few weeks.
Lipsitch attributed the good news to increased vaccinations, cautious behavior by those at risk, and immunity stemming from infections in populations most at risk.
dr Tom Inglesby, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, agreed that the spread of monkeypox in the US is unlikely to stop soon, but said it is still possible in the long term. .
If domestic transmission were stopped, infections could still continue if people contract the virus while traveling internationally, he said. But the decline in cases makes it seem like “we’ve taken a real turn.”
“Ongoing efforts are succeeding and should continue, if not intensify,” he said.
With the number of cases declining, this is a good time for local health departments to make another attempt at intensive contact tracing to try to stop chains of transmission, he said.
Monkeypox is endemic in parts of Africa, where people became infected through bites from rodents or small animals, but it was not considered a disease that spread easily between people until May, when infections emerged in Europe and the US. USA
More than 67,000 cases have been reported in countries that have not historically seen monkeypox. The United States has the most infections of any country: more than 25,600. One death in the US has been attributed to monkeypox.
More than 97% of US cases are male. The vast majority have been men who reported recent sexual contact with other men.
Although cases have dropped, the proportion of new cases that have information about recent sexual contact has also dropped, officials said. That’s causing a growing blind spot about how the virus can spread, Lipsitch noted.
Associated Press Health & Science is supported by the Department of Science Education at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The AP is solely responsible for all content.