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HHS to lift mpox emergency declaration as cases drop

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Dive Brief:

  • The HHS announced it does not expect to renew the public health emergency declaration for mpox, previously called monkeypox, when the emergency ends Jan. 31, citing the low number of current cases.
  • After peaking at more than 600 daily cases in August, the seven-day moving average for reported infections has fallen into the single digits, according to the latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • The HHS said it will continue to monitor case trends closely, especially in communities that have been disproportionately affected, and encouraged at-risk people to get a free vaccine.

Dive Insight:

After accelerating at a rapid clip in the U.S. this summer, the rate of new mpox cases slowed just as quickly through the fall as more people received the vaccine. The HHS ramped up efforts to distribute doses of the vaccine in June and July, working to address early supply shortages in hard-hit locations like New York City.

The World Health Organization declared the outbreak a global health emergency in July, and the U.S. followed suit in August. Declaring a public health emergency allows federal agencies to access emergency funds and allocate resources for efforts to stem a viral outbreak. 

The mpox virus is part of the same family as smallpox, but mpox disease is usually milder. It causes painful skin lesions and flu-like symptoms and can lead to death in rare occasions, though most people recover without any serious complications. It is transmitted through close contact with an infected person.

Anyone who is in close contact with someone who has contracted the virus is at risk. Data suggest the majority of cases in the current outbreak have occurred among men who have sex with men, according to the CDC.

A total of 29,630 cases have been reported to date in the U.S. outbreak, including 20 deaths.

The WHO last month said it would start using the term mpox for the virus, a recommendation that the CDC endorsed, in an effort to reduce stigma and barriers to care.

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