There are early indications that the number of new monkeypox cases in the United States is slowing.
Experts believe the virus can be completely eradicated in the United States. While challenges remain, recent advancements in vaccination efforts may lead to complete eradication, but this could take years, according to experts.
Elimination is going to be more difficult because, even if we reduce the number of cases, there could still be sustained transmission, according to Dr. John Brownstein, chief innovation officer at Boston Children’s Hospital and an ABC News contributor.
With only 78 new cases reported on September 14, public health efforts toward behavior modification and vaccination are yielding encouraging results. Nearly 60,000 cases of monkeypox have been discovered in over 100 countries since May.
According to the World Health Organization, monkeypox has historically been found in ten countries in central and western Africa (WHO). However, in the spring of 2022, the virus began to spread in North America, Europe, and other continents that had previously not seen major, prolonged outbreaks.
“I believe the goal is containment through continued treatment and education,” said Dr. Richard Silvera, associate program director of the Infectious Diseases Fellowship and assistant professor of medicine at Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine.
Monkeypox is rarely fatal, but it does cause painful symptoms such as blisters and a rash. The virus spreads primarily through close contacts, such as hugging or touching someone with a rash.
Experts believe it is critical to monitor animals for monkeypox in order to contain and hopefully eliminate the virus because animals can carry the virus and transmit it to humans.
“The way to eliminate it is to ensure that no domestic animal species becomes a reservoir,” Dr. Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said.
Several animal species have been found to be susceptible to the monkeypox virus in previous testing efforts. There is no confirmed reservoir for the virus, and experts believe that additional research and surveillance will be critical in its elimination, if not global eradication.
“There’s a lot to be encouraged by,” but it’ll “depend on whether we can contain this in the human population,” said Dr. Anne Rimoin, an epidemiology professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.
In order to contain the global outbreak, the WHO issued a public health advisory for gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men in July. Anyone can get monkeypox, but because the current outbreak started with this group, it has spread to men who have sex with men, who are now the most vulnerable. In order to combat misinformation and slow its spread, the WHO is encouraging people to share only non-stigmatizing information from reliable sources.
According to survey and vaccination data, gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men are generally aware of the monkeypox outbreak and are taking steps to slow the virus’s spread. This is because the group is “very willing to talk about complicated things,” according to Rimoin.
The United States had vaccinated nearly 500,000 people against monkeypox as of mid-September.
“We must continue to respond aggressively using our entire toolkit, including vaccination, testing, and risk education to inform behavior change,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said.
Although many experts are cautiously optimistic about the outbreak in the United States, others believe monkeypox may be here to stay.
“We’re going to see monkeypox cases for years,” Brownstein predicted.
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