Should I still be worried about monkeypox?

A public health worker enters a building where monkeypox vaccines were being administered in Charlotte in August. (Logan Cyrus for The Washington Post)

U.S. health officials expect the decline of new monkeypox cases to continue through November, but warn that the virus is unlikely to be eliminated in the near future.

Monkeypox has not significantly circulated beyond men who have sex with men in countries where the virus is not endemic, as experts feared earlier in the outbreak. Authorities expect the virus to remain concentrated in that group.

Public health officials and clinicians attribute the decline in infections to changes in sexual behavior thanks to awareness of monkeypox and vaccination. They caution that cases could rebound if the protection from vaccines does not last and as people resume their usual sexual behavior.

Eligible individuals who did not receive the monkeypox vaccine were about 14 times more likely to become infected than those who received a first dose of the two-dose vaccine, according to data released in late September by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — a promising sign CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said provides “a level of cautious optimism that the vaccine is working as intended.”

The CDC has expanded eligibility for vaccination against a virus that has infected more than 28,000 people in the United States. Despite the decrease in new cases, severe infections have been showing up in recent weeks among men, the majority of them Latino and Black, according to the CDC. The agency issued a health advisory to clinicians in late September alerting them about “severe manifestations” of disease in men with weak immune systems because they have advanced HIV. In many instances, these patients have had more than 100 lesions.

The CDC recently released a report examining 57 cases of patients hospitalized with monkeypox, showcasing how the virus can result in severe illness for people with weak immune systems because of untreated HIV.

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