WASHINGTON, DC – December 2, 2022 – The U.S. public health emergency for the disease formerly known as monkeypox will end on January 31, 2023. According to CDC data, the average number of cases a week have been sharply reduced from a peak of 600 at the beginning of August to fewer than 10 at present. HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a prepared statement, “we will continue to monitor the case trends closely and encourage all at-risk individuals to get a free vaccine.”
The World Health Organization renamed monkeypox mpox last month to remove the association between the disease and monkeys. It was first discovered in 1958 after outbreaks of the disease occurred in laboratory monkeys by a virus related to the smallpox virus. However, the source of the disease is unknown.
Mpox is a communicable disease that has spread to more than 70 countries and has infected about 30 thousand people in the U.S. this year. Until the recent outbreak, monkeypox has been endemic in central and western Africa. The virus can reside in African rodents and non-human primates and can infect people. Cases outside of Africa were either related to human travel or through the export of animals. The recent worldwide outbreak is from the milder West African strain and is rarely fatal. The first cases were detected in the U.S. in mid-May.
Mpox symptoms are similar to smallpox symptoms but milder. They can include: fever, headache, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, exhaustion, and chills followed by a painful rash. The rash, ranging from a few lesions to thousands, can appear like pimples or fluid-filled blisters before scabbing over.
The disease can spread from contact with an infected person or infected animal, although not as rapidly as COVID-19. The virus is primarily spread through direct contact with the rash, scabs or bodily fluids or with contaminated items, like clothing or bedsheets. Most of the mpox cases outside of Africa have been spread through contact among men who have had sex with men. However, women and children can develop the disease by touching an infected person or contaminated item.
Embracing effective public health practices by the gay community have almost completely eliminated the disease in the U.S. Dr. Daniel Griffin, chief of the Division of Infectious Disease for Optum Health, said via email to USA Today, “The most impacted population were quick to embrace vaccines, proactive about getting treated, really did reduce risky behaviors.”
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