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Mepox cases in the United States are twice as high as they were at this time last year, and experts have emphasized the need to improve vaccine coverage as transmission risks increase.

As of March 16 this year, 511 cases had been reported, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – compared to fewer than 300 cases at the end of March 2023.

The prevalence is still far below the level from 2022, when there were tens of thousands of cases in the United States. But after last year’s lull, the US is vulnerable to expansion in a number of ways, they say. The public health emergency in the US ended a year ago, reducing the amount of federal resources available to manage the public health response. And relatively low vaccination rates put many at risk.

In December, the CDC also sent a health Alarm Alerting health care providers about another subtype of the virus that is more transmissible and more severe than the subtype linked to the 2022 outbreak in the US. This particular genetic clade has not been recognized in the US but is spreading in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“This has the potential to be a really widespread disease, but the advantage with mpox is that we have an effective vaccine. We have nothing for syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia or HIV.” said Dr. Marcus Plessia, chief medical officer of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. “We’ve done well with the vaccine push, but we’re nowhere close to getting most of the people at risk vaccinated. Until this happens, we will see epidemics and emergencies in various places.

Empox, formerly known as monkeypox, is a much smaller cousin of the now extinct smallpox virus, and is transmitted through close personal contact. Initial symptoms are flu-like – including fever, chills, fatigue, headache and muscle weakness – usually with blisters and itchiness that resolve within weeks.

Although anyone can get mpox, men who have sex with men are particularly at risk, and people with HIV are at greater risk of serious outcomes, including death. The vaccine, manufactured by the Danish company Jynneos under the brand name Bavarian Nordic, has a recommended two-dose regimen and is administered one month apart.

In most states, by August 2022, less than a quarter of the population at risk will be fully vaccinated with the two-dose series after CDC is approved for emergency use. Data It shows. As of January, coverage was highest in the District of Columbia, where 68% of at-risk people received both shots, but coverage was less than half in every jurisdiction. Coverage is below 10% in eight states.

All U.S. regions reported more cases this year than in the first three months of 2023, with the largest disparity in the mid-Atlantic region, especially New York City, CDC data show.

On Monday, the Virginia Department of Health announced that a advertisement To raise awareness of recent issues.

As in 2023, the state has seen more cases this year. Cases have also been reported from other states in the state, but last year’s cases were in the northern part of the state. Of the 12 cases, four were hospitalized, six had HIV and none had been vaccinated, the announcement said.

“We felt it was very important to get the word out that there is a continued threat from this virus. It’s still here,” said Dr. Brandi Darby, director of surveillance and testing at the Virginia Department of Health. We hope this can encourage you to go ahead and get vaccinated so you can have fun and not worry too much about mpox.

Jeffrey Crowley, executive director of the Infectious Diseases Initiative at Georgetown’s O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, said curbing the spread of pox will require compassionate and tailored efforts to reach the most vulnerable populations. In May, he shared one Report A year after the first outbreak, outlining the lessons learned and the steps needed to revive it.

“Public health really came up and said, ‘This is something we’re concerned about. We are thinking about you,” he said. “Moving forward, we need to find these affirmative ways to build trust and create strategic partnerships with communities that can reach the most vulnerable.”

US survey In the year As of August 2022, nearly half of men who have had sex with men have changed their behavior in response to the mpox outbreak by reducing the number of sexual partners, one-time sex or gaming apps. Studies have shown that these changes have had a significant impact on curbing the spread, but experts say vaccination is a more realistic and lasting preventative measure.

“Certainly, I feel like HIV has taught us that people can’t be abstinent forever. So we need these other tools,” Crowley said.

Mepox vaccines do not require annual boosters; After a person completes a two-dose series, the coverage lasts for a long time. Although there’s a recommended four-week window between the first and second shots, experts say people who only got the first shot but want to improve their coverage can get the second shot outside of that time without starting the series over. And the vaccine in the U.S. will protect against a more severe form of the virus if it begins to spread in the U.S.

The federal government manages the supply of mpox vaccines in the US during public health emergencies, but that process has since been commercialized. The government has a limited supply left and the vaccine is expected to be available in pharmacies and health care offices next month, experts said.

While this may help expand vaccine access for some, it comes with its own set of problems, experts say.

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“Now that there’s an adequate supply of the vaccine, and we have a little better handle on the outbreak, we’re moving to the commercial system. This is how we do business in the United States,” Plescia said. But we lose visibility into what’s really going on. We don’t have that much information about who gets the vaccine and if there is a shortage.

And access to treatment remains a challenge, making preventive measures even more important, said Elizabeth Finley, senior director of the National Coalition of Sexually Transmitted Diseases. But the sexual health field faces a number of concerns amid tight budget pressures.

“We remember that people are not necessarily getting the treatment they need, and there are some administrative barriers to that,” she said. “The all-hands-on-deck effort has now been added to the daily work of STD and HIV prevention, and these are very stretched systems.”