US officials announce more moves against Monkeypox

In response to a surprising and growing monkeypox outbreak, US health officials on Tuesday expanded the group of people recommended vaccinating against the monkeypox virus.

They also said they are providing more monkeypox vaccines, are working on expanding testing, and are taking other steps to stay ahead of the outbreak.

“We will continue to take aggressive action against this virus,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, White House Covid-19 Response Coordinator, who has also played a role in the government’s handling of monkeypox.

US officials announce more moves against Monkeypox

The government said it is expanding the group of people being advised to vaccinate to include those who may realize they may be infected.

Most monkeypox patients only experience fever, body aches, chills, and fatigue. People with more serious illnesses may develop skin rashes and lesions on the face and hands that can spread to other body parts.

The disease is endemic in parts of Africa, where humans have become infected through bites from rodents or small animals. It usually does not spread easily among people.

Cases started popping up in Europe and the United States last month. Many, but not all, who had contracted the virus had traveled internationally. Most were men who had sex with men, but health officials emphasized that anyone can get monkeypox.

The number of cases has continued to grow. By Tuesday, the US had identified 306 points in 27 states and the District of Columbia. More than 4,700 cases have been found in more than 40 other countries outside the areas of Africa where the virus is endemic.

There have been no US deaths, and officials say the risk to the US public is low. But they are taking steps to reassure people that medical measures have been taken to address the growing problem.

One of the steps was to expand who is recommended to get vaccinated. Vaccines are usually given to build immunity in people before they are infected. But if delivered within days or even a few weeks of initial infection, some vaccines can reduce the severity of symptoms.

A two-dose vaccine, Jynneos, has been approved for monkeypox in the US. And it’s that vaccine that officials have been trying to use as a primary weapon against the outbreak.

US officials said Tuesday they are increasing the amount of Jynneos vaccine they are making available, with 56,000 doses immediately assigned and about 240,000 more in the coming weeks. They promised more than 1 million more for the coming months.

Another change: Until now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have advised giving vaccines after exposure to people that health officials identify as having close personal contact with cases. But on Tuesday, CDC officials said they are extending the recommendation to people who have never been identified but may realize they may be infected.

This could include men who have had sex with men who have recently had multiple sex partners in a location where monkeypox was known to be present or in an area where monkeypox is spreading.

“It’s almost like we’re expanding the definition of who a contact might be,” said Jennifer McQuiston of the CDC. If people have been to a party or other place where monkeypox is known to spread, “we recommend that they stop by for a vaccine,” she said.

Lori J. Kile
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