WASHINGTON – Federal health officials said Thursday they are hopeful the virus can be eliminated in the United States as cases of monkeypox decline nationwide, though they warned Americans remain at risk until it is eradicated globally.
“Our goal is eradication; that’s what we’re working on,” said Dr. Demetrius Daskalakis, deputy coordinator of the White House’s Simian Disease Response Team, during a visit to the Simian Disease Prevention Clinic in Washington.
Dr. Daskalakis, President Biden’s health secretary, Javier Becerra, and the response team’s coordinator, Robert J. The visit to the clinic is to highlight the District of Columbia’s effort to close the simian vaccine racial gap — a key goal of the Biden administration.
“From the very beginning, the president said, ‘Get on this and stay ahead of it,'” Mr. Becerra told reporters. “And we can’t really say we’re ahead if we leave certain communities behind.”
Dr. Daskalakis, an infectious disease expert, previously headed the HIV prevention division at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He was taken to the monkey disease response team By Mr. Biden last month.
What you need to know about the monkeypox virus
What is monkey disease? Monkey disease A virus similar to smallpox, but the symptoms are less severe. It was discovered in 1958 after an outbreak in monkeys kept for research. The virus is primarily found in parts of Central and West Africa, but has recently spread to dozens of countries, infecting tens of thousands of people, mostly men who have sex with men.
On Thursday, Dr. Daskalakis did not give a time frame for ending the epidemic in the United States, saying only that he was looking into the “medium-term crystal ball.” But over time, cases tend to decline and infections emerge only sporadically, allowing health officials to identify and vaccinate close contacts of those infected — and end the epidemic in the process.
That strategy is known as Ring vaccinationIn the year It was used in the international campaign to eradicate smallpox, which was supposedly eradicated in 1980.
But there is a big difference between monkeypox and smallpox: smallpox only affects humans, while monkeypox affects animals. Dr. Michael T., an infectious disease expert at the University of Minnesota.
“Eradication is a very sacred word in public health; to eradicate means to eradicate it permanently, and the only virus we’ve done so far is smallpox,” said Dr. Osterholm.
He said a better word is “removal”, and a better comparison would be measles. “We had a large measles eradication program in this country and it reduced the incidence of measles significantly, but the challenge today is the introduction of the virus from individuals around the world,” said Dr. Osterholm.
The first US cases of the current monkey disease emerged in May. In the United States, it occurs mainly in men who have sex with men, with fever, muscle aches, chills, and sores. In rich countries like the United States, it is rarely fatal, but it can cause serious illness. The current epidemic is unusually large; The last major monkeypox outbreak in the United States was in 2003, when 47 confirmed and probable cases were reported in six states.
In the current outbreak, the United States accounts for a third of the estimated 65,000 cases. It has been reported around the world; CDC from Thursday He had reported. About 25,000 cases in the country. An average of about 200 cases a day are still being reported in the United States, despite a sharp drop from the outbreak in August.
The decline comes as a relief to Biden administration officials, who were heavily criticized for their response — and particularly the lack of vaccinations — in the early days of the outbreak. Critics, including many gay rights activists, said the administration failed to move aggressively to order and distribute vaccine doses before many gay men were infected at Pride celebrations in June.
One of those activists, James Krellenstein, founder of the advocacy group PREP4All, said Dr. Daskalakis’ comments were premature. He said the lack of federal funding to research monkeypox and the lack of answers to basic questions made it too early to predict whether the outbreak would end.
Mr Krellenstein added in the reference: “This is the first time this monkey disease has been transmitted from person to person in a large scale, and many scientific unknowns remain.” President George W. Bush“Let’s not go into a ‘mission accomplished’ landing here on an aircraft carrier.
The vaccine shortage has led to a huge racial disparity that the administration is now trying to address. Dr. Wafa El-Sadr, a professor of epidemiology and medicine at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, said she shares Dr. Daskalakis’ hopes that while the epidemic may be contained, efforts to reach vulnerable populations will be limited.
“The danger,” she said, “is that you have these hard-to-reach, often poor, racial and ethnic minorities who don’t have a lot of awareness.” Sometimes they backfire, as we see with vaccines.