- A monkeypox outbreak has surged in the past two months with more than 4,100 confirmed cases worldwide.
- Monkeypox cases in the US have surpassed 200 cases in 25 states including California, Florida, New York and Texas.
- Health authorities have started vaccinations for vulnerable people. New York City opened a vaccination clinic last week.
Cases of monkeypox are rising in the US, and with health officials claiming the threat to the general population is low, efforts have begun to vaccinate those at risk.
The disease, which is caused by a virus and was first identified in humans in 1970, according to the World Health Organization, has usually been seen in parts of central and west Africa. Scientists believe it has occasionally jumped from animals, likely rodents, to humans.
Since May 2022, more than 4,100 confirmed cases of monkeypox — and one death — have been reported in 47 countries in Europe and South America, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In the United States, more than 200 cases of monkeypox were reported in 25 states as of Friday, according to the CDC. States reporting cases include California, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Washington.
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Earlier this week, the Biden administration began shipping monkeypox tests to commercial labs including Aegis Science, Labcorp and Quest Diagnostics to expand testing capabilities.
The rare condition typically begins with flu-like symptoms such as fever, followed by muscle aches, chills and fatigue. It can develop into a rash, often on the face and genitals.
Monkeypox can spread through personal contact with a rash, scabs, or bodily fluids — and by touching objects like clothing or bedding that an infected person has been using.
Most people recover from monkeypox within weeks, but the disease is fatal for up to 1 in 10 people, the WHO says.
Who Needs a Monkeypox Vaccine?
Those at highest risk of monkeypox in this outbreak are gay, bisexual or other men who have sex with men, health officials say.
In Britain, where Britain has the largest outbreak of monkeypox outside of Africa, vaccines are now being considered for those at highest risk: men who have sex with men and who have multiple partners, engage in group sex, or visit places where sex is practiced takes place on company premises. A survey of those infected in the UK found that 96% were men who were gay, bisexual or had sex with other men.
The CDC also recommends vaccinations for laboratory and medical workers — and anyone else — who might be exposed to monkeypox.
What is the Jynneos vaccine?
The Jynneos vaccine, approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2019 to prevent smallpox and monkeypox in people 18 and older, requires two doses four weeks apart. The CDC is also investigating a move to allow the vaccine to be used in children.
The Jynneos vaccine is considered safer than alternatives because it is made from a virus related to smallpox and monkeypox but less harmful. Research leading to its approval found that Jynneos elicited an immune response similar to that of the smallpox vaccine. Research data suggests the vaccine is at least 85% effective in preventing monkeypox, according to the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
However, it remains unknown how well the vaccine protects humans from monkeypox. Studies conducted in the Democratic Republic of the Congo found that none of the 1,600 vaccinated health care workers developed monkeypox for over two years, Science magazine reported. However, the study did not include a control group and one person contracted monkeypox after the study period.
The Department of Health and Human Services has more than 36,000 Jynneos courses in its strategic national stockpile and expects about another 500,000 to be shipped overall this year, according to the CDC.
“The truth is that we don’t know the effectiveness of any of these monkeypox vaccines,” Ira Longini, a biostatistician at the University of Florida who advises the WHO, told Science.
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Does the smallpox vaccine protect against monkeypox?
US has 100 million doses of smallpox vaccine ACAM2000, CDC says. Research from Africa suggests the vaccine is at least 85% effective at preventing monkeypox, the agency says.
However, the vaccine, which is given through multiple punctures of a bifurcated or bifurcated needle rather than an injection, can cause some side effects, including inflammation and swelling of the heart and surrounding tissues, inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), and the spread of the virus, according to the FDA on the rest of the body or on other people they come into contact with.
The vaccine is not made from the smallpox virus, but from a poxvirus similar to smallpox.
New York City Offers Monkeypox Vaccines, Or Other States?
The New York City Health Department and hospitals have given vaccines to people suspected of having been in contact with someone with monkeypox. The department last week opened a vaccination clinic that caters to all gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men who have had multiple or anonymous sex partners in the past two weeks.
Other states and local agencies have also been working with the CDC on immunizations, the agency says.
The California Department of Health and Human Services has requested and received vaccines from the stockpile to protect against monkeypox, the agency told USA TODAY in a statement.
Fifty-two cases have been reported in five counties across the state, the agency said. “The cases primarily involved gay, bisexual and other men and transgender people who have sex with men,” the statement said. “Monkeypox is transmitted through close and intimate physical contact. Although the risk to the general public is very low, it is important to remember that anyone who has such contact with an infected person can contract monkeypox. People with an unusual rash or skin lesion should contact their doctor for an evaluation.”
The CDC recommends contacting your doctor if you have symptoms of monkeypox, even if you don’t think you’ve been in contact with someone who has the disease.
Is there a treatment for monkeypox?
Those who get monkeypox typically develop painful and itchy lesions that eventually scab over and fall off. Those infected show symptoms seven to 14 days after exposure and can remain infectious for several weeks.
The monkeypox and smallpox vaccines, if given within four days of the exposure date, can prevent the onset of the disease – and potentially relieve symptoms if given up to two weeks after exposure.
However, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, there is currently no proven treatment for monkeypox. However, there are several antiviral medications used to treat smallpox and other conditions that may help patients with monkeypox infection.
The antiviral drug Tecovirimat, developed to treat smallpox, has been approved for emergency treatment of viruses such as monkeypox.
An antibody drug, Vaccinia Immune Globulin Intravenous (VIGIV), developed to treat smallpox vaccine side effects, and another antiviral drug, cidofovir, used to treat eye infections in AIDS patients, are also for emergency treatment of monkeypox and similar viruses available. Another antiviral drug, brincidofovir, could potentially be used to treat the disease, and research into additional treatments and vaccines is ongoing.
Featuring: Elizabeth Wise, USA TODAY; The Associated Press
Follow Mike Snider on Twitter: @mikesnider.