New monkeypox cases in the United States have been steadily dropping in recent weeks, with cases reported in the first week of September cut to about half of what they were at their peak a month ago.
But the recent death of a Los Angeles County resident – the first attributed to monkeypox in the US – is a tragic reminder that the outbreak is ongoing and still poses risks.
“There is some hope around these cases leveling off. That should not be anybody’s solace that this outbreak is done,” David Harvey, executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors, said at a briefing Tuesday.
“We still have to ramp up our efforts to respond to this outbreak. And there are many, many data questions, clinical care questions, research questions that remain to be answered about this very unusual outbreak of a known virus over the decades that is presenting itself very differently in the United States.”
Keep your foot on the gas, public health leaders warn
Deaths from monkeypox are extremely rare and often affect babies, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems, such as from HIV. This year, the World Health Organization has reported 22 deaths among about 58,000 cases. About 22,000 of those cases have been reported in the US.
“Back in July, CDC estimated that it took eight days for cases to double nationwide. By mid-August, the doubling rate was 25 days, showing encouraging signs of progress,” Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, the White House’s assistant monkeypox response coordinator, said last week.
But Harvey and other public health leaders warned Tuesday that people on the front lines of the response – including local health departments, epidemiologists and clinics that deal with sexually transmitted infections – do not have adequate resources to ensure continued improvement.