The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has raised the alarm over the possibility of new cases of monkeypox (formerly known as mpox) emerging this summer.
The CDC announced in an official Health Alert Network update on Monday that the spring and summer seasons in 2023 may see a resurgence in mpox, as people will gather at festivals and other special events.
In a health advisory published on Monday, the CDC said that it is working with local partners to investigate a clustering of mpox in the Chicago region. The CDC also stated that they continue to receive reports about cases that indicate ongoing community transmissions in the United States as well as internationally.
According to the CDC, between April 17 and may 5, Chicago Department of Public Health received 12 confirmed cases of mpox and 1 probable case. The cases all occurred in men aged between 24 and 46. The patients all had symptoms but none were hospitalized. Nine of these 13 cases occurred among men who received the Jynneos two-dose mpox vaccination. Four of these men recently visited New York, New Orleans or Mexico.
In its alert, the CDC stated that vaccinations can help reduce the severity of an infection and lower the risk of hospitalization.
The agency stated that the purpose of the Health Alert Network Health Update was to inform public health agencies and clinicians about the possibility of new clusters of mpox outbreaks, as well as to provide information on the clinical evaluation, treatment and vaccination of mpox, and the testing of mpox.
We remain vigilant
San Francisco is one of the cities and counties that encourages people to be vaccinated in order to avoid an increase in cases during this summer.
'Cases in San Francisco are low. However, we remain vigilant, as new cases have been reported recently in other parts the country.' San Francisco's Health Officer, Dr. Susan Philip, said in a press release issued last week. If you had your first dose in the fall it's not too late to get a second one.
Mpox, a virus, spreads by close contact. While it can affect anyone, the majority of cases were among men who had sex with other men during the outbreak last year. Mpox is a viral disease that spreads through close contact. While it can infect anyone, during last year's outbreak, infections were mostly among men who had sex with other men. Rarely, mpox is fatal, especially in people with weak immune systems.
There is a risk that the number of new cases of mpox will increase because it's still unclear how long the natural or vaccine-induced immunity to the virus lasts. Dr. Jay Varma of Weill Cornell Medicine, who is a professor of population sciences and the director of the Center for Pandemic Prevention and Response, explained.
There's a real danger that mpox will be on the rise in the coming months. Varma explained that the number of cases will be less than last year because so many people were infected with mpox or had been vaccinated.
He said: 'But there is also a great deal of uncertainty as to how long the protection from infections or vaccinations you received in the previous years will last, as well the uncertainty of even more people being at risk. Because every year new teenagers who are sexually-active adults become adults, they are at risk and were not vaccinated previously. Sexual contact is the primary method of transmission in these outbreaks.
He said that the vaccine was effective, safe and played a significant role in reducing the transmission of mpox in last year's outbreak.
Even though it is not known whether the vaccine is 80%, 90%, or 100% effective or how long the effects last, it is clear that it is better to be vaccinated. Varma is also on the board at SIGA Technologies. The company is the developer of Tpoxx which is an antiviral smallpox drug. It has been studied and used in clinical trials for the treatment of mpox.
"A grave concern"
Lori Tremmel Freeman is the chief executive of the National Association of County and City Health Officials. She said that the United States had 'only one or two cases a day and they are limited to one to perhaps two jurisdictions across the country'.
Freeman stated that it is estimated that only one in four people who are at highest risk of mpox have been fully vaccinated.
Freeman stated that there is a real concern about the level of vaccination of those most at risk. We are now experiencing a new case outbreak in the Midwest, which includes previously vaccinated people, though the symptoms seem to be milder.
She said that there was much more to be unpacked, but the vaccine is still the best way to avoid severe diseases, such as hospitalization or death. People should get vaccinated at least two weeks before attending major events with a risk of exposure to the mpox virus.
This week marks one year since the first US case of mpox in the global outbreak last year. Last week, the World Health Organization announced that mpox was no longer considered a global emergency.
Last week, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stated that, "as with Covid-19," the work was not over.
Tedros stated that 'Mpox is a significant public health challenge and requires a robust, proactive, and sustainable response'. Tedros said that while he welcomed the decline in mpox worldwide, the virus still affects communities across the globe, including Africa, where the transmission of the virus is not fully understood.
David Harvey, Executive Director of the National Coalition of STD Directors said in an email on Monday that'mpox remains a grave problem' and should be "back on the radar" of health care providers and communities.
"One year ago, this week we experienced an unprecedented mpox outbreak. Public health workers, and in particular those who deal with STIs, rallied quickly to demand a strong response. In the end, over a million doses were distributed. Harvey wrote that despite the fact that case numbers were dropping, many people still did not receive vaccinations.
He said: 'Now, in Chicago, the resurgence we expected to see is happening, and we remain concerned about a wider spread during the festival and summer season.' The good news is we already know what works, and we are prepared to use the same tools in the event of a new outbreak. The vaccine is effective and safe, and helps to reduce cases.