There are now more than 1,400 confirmed monkeypox cases in the United States, including 30 in Maryland, and officials at the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention say they expect cases to continue to rise through August.
The agency has been criticized for a slow rollout of tests and vaccines to contain the outbreak, but officials reported both are gaining in availability. With the addition of commercial labs to public labs processing samples, the network can now test 70,000 people a week, many times the number from the start of the outbreak in mid-May. Doctors must order the tests.
“We have the testing capacity needed,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, CDC director, during a news conference Friday, adding that fewer cases will go undetected by medical providers and unreported to health officials.
That will help direct new batches of vaccine. More than 130,000 more doses were being made available to states Friday for shipping as early as Monday. By next year, there should be more than 7 million doses delivered. Much of that had to be ordered from manufacturers, as supplies in the national stockpile were limited. That means doses will remain limited for the time being.
“At this time, demand is higher than current supply, and I know this is frustrating,” Walensky said.
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She said they would continue to be doled out “strategically” to those people exposed in the last two weeks, rather than to entire at-risk communities.
Monkeypox isn’t a new virus, but isn’t often found in the United States. It’s endemic in African countries, but normally spreads from animals to people rather than from person to person.
CDC officials said they have been working to get information out about the monkeypox virus. It’s not as contagious as COVID-19, but is spread through close contact, including skin-to-skin contact that includes exposure to the telltale rash and contact with contaminated linens or clothing.
Officials said anyone with fever, swollen lymph nodes and the lesions should be tested, regardless of whether they have traveled to Europe, where the outbreak began.
For now, most cases are among gay and bisexual men. The CDC said demographic information voluntarily reported to the agency shows there have only been eight cases among people who identified as women at birth, though the officials couldn’t say if those individuals still identify as women. The median age was 36, though cases were reported in people age 18 to 76.
The Maryland Department of Health reported last week that the state was allocated 682 doses of the Jynneos monkeypox vaccine, and they would be split among Baltimore City and Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, where cases have been logged. About 80 doses were retained by state health officials for use in other counties as needed. Each person needs two shots, three weeks apart.
State officials said they had no more information yet on doses expected in Maryland next week.