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Officials Hopeful That Monkeypox Can Be Eliminated within the U.S.

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WASHINGTON — With monkeypox cases on the decline nationally, federal health officials expressed optimism on Thursday that the virus might be eliminated in the USA, though they cautioned that unless it was worn out globally, Americans would remain in danger.

“Our goal is to eradicate; that’s what we’re working toward,” Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, the deputy coordinator of the White House monkeypox response team, said during a visit to a monkeypox vaccination clinic in Washington. He added, “The prediction is, we’re going to get very close.”

Dr. Daskalakis was joined by President Biden’s health secretary, Xavier Becerra, and the response team’s coordinator, Robert J. Fenton Jr., who echoed his optimism. The visit to the clinic was intended to highlight efforts by the District of Columbia to shut the racial gap in vaccination against monkeypox — a serious goal of the Biden administration.

“The president said from the very starting, ‘Get on top of this, after which stay ahead of it,’” Mr. Becerra told reporters. “And we will’t say we actually stayed ahead of it if we’re leaving certain communities behind.”

Dr. Daskalakis, an infectious disease expert who previously ran the division of H.I.V. prevention on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was brought onto the monkeypox response team by Mr. Biden last month.

What to Know Concerning the Monkeypox Virus

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What’s monkeypox? Monkeypox is a virus just like smallpox, but symptoms are less severe. It was discovered in 1958, after outbreaks occurred in monkeys kept for research. The virus was primarily present in parts of Central and West Africa, but recently it has spread to dozens of nations and infected tens of hundreds of individuals, overwhelmingly men who’ve sex with men.

How does it spread? The monkeypox virus can spread from individual to individual through close physical contact with infectious lesions or pustules, by touching items — like clothing or bedding — that previously touched the rash, or via the respiratory droplets produced by coughing or sneezing. Monkeypox can be transmitted from mother to fetus via the placenta or through close contact during and after birth.

I fear I may need monkeypox. What should I do? There is no such thing as a option to test for monkeypox if you’ve gotten only flulike symptoms. But when you begin to notice red lesions, it’s best to contact an urgent care center or your primary care physician, who can order a monkeypox test. Isolate at home as soon as you develop symptoms, and wear high-quality masks if you have to are available in contact with others for medical care.

I live in Recent York. Can I get the vaccine? Adult men who’ve sex with men and who’ve had multiple sexual partners up to now 14 days are eligible for a vaccine in Recent York City, in addition to close contacts of infected people. Eligible individuals who have conditions that weaken the immune system or who’ve a history of dermatitis or eczema are also strongly encouraged to get vaccinated. People can book an appointment through this website.

On Thursday, Dr. Daskalakis didn’t give a timeline for ending the outbreak in the USA, saying only that he was looking into his “midterm crystal ball.” But he said he expected that, over time, cases would drop to a trickle and infections would emerge only sporadically, enabling health officials to isolate and vaccinate the close contacts of those infected — and end the outbreak in the method.

That strategy, often called ring vaccination, was utilized in the worldwide campaign to stamp out smallpox, which was declared eradicated in 1980.

But there’s a serious difference between monkeypox and smallpox: Smallpox occurs only in humans, while monkeypox also occurs in animals. The existence of an “animal reservoir” means there’ll at all times be the chance of spread to humans, said Dr. Michael T. Osterholm, an infectious disease expert on the University of Minnesota.

“Eradication is a really sacred word in public health; to eradicate means it’s gone permanently, and the one virus we now have done that with to this point is smallpox,” Dr. Osterholm said.

He said a greater word was “elimination,” and a greater comparison can be measles. “We’ve had a serious measles elimination program on this country and have greatly reduced the occurrence of measles, however the challenge today stays the introduction of the virus from individuals around the globe,” Dr. Osterholm said.

The primary U.S. cases in the present monkeypox outbreak emerged in May. The disease, which in the USA has occurred primarily in men who’ve sex with men, is characterised by fever, muscle aches, chills and lesions. It isn’t fatal in wealthy countries like the USA, but it could cause excruciating pain. The present outbreak is unusually large; the last big monkeypox outbreak in the USA occurred in 2003, when 47 confirmed and probable cases were reported in six states.

In the present outbreak, the USA accounts for greater than a 3rd of the roughly 65,000 cases reported worldwide; as of Thursday, the C.D.C. had reported nearly 25,000 cases within the country. A mean of about 200 cases per day are still being reported in the USA, though that figure is down significantly from the peak of the outbreak in August.

The decline is a relief to Biden administration officials, who got here under sharp criticism for his or her response — and particularly a shortage of the vaccine — within the early days of the outbreak. Critics, including many gay rights activists, said the administration didn’t move aggressively to order vaccine doses and distribute them before many gay men were infected during Pride celebrations in June.

Certainly one of those activists, James Krellenstein, a founding father of PrEP4All, an advocacy group, said Dr. Daskalakis’s comments were premature. He said a shortage of federal funds to research monkeypox, and an absence of answers to basic questions, made it too soon to predict an end to the outbreak.

“That is the primary time that we actually have seen a big outbreak of monkeypox with sustained human-to-human transmission, and there remain many scientific unknowns,” Mr. Krellenstein said, adding in a reference to President George W. Bush, “Let’s not get into ‘mission completed’ landing on an aircraft carrier territory here.”

The vaccine shortage led to sharp racial disparities that the administration is now trying to deal with. Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr, a professor of epidemiology and medicine at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, said she shared Dr. Daskalakis’s optimism that the outbreak might be brought under control, but only with intense efforts to succeed in underserved populations.

“The danger,” she said, “is that you’ve gotten these populations which can be hard to succeed in, often the poor and folks of racial and ethnic minorities who’re less aware, have less access. They have an inclination to sometimes fall behind, as we’re seeing, when it comes to vaccination.”

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