CDC director 'cautiously optimistic' as monkeypox cases appear to trend down

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Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said on Friday she was “cautiously optimistic” about the direction of the monkeypox outbreak amid early reports of cases trending down both in the U.S. and globally.

During a press briefing, Walensky noted that some jurisdictions including New York, Chicago and San Francisco have begun to report a downward trend in monkeypox cases.

The majority of vaccinations for monkeypox in the U.S. are reported to be first doses so it is unclear how much immunization efforts can be credited with pushing down cases.

However, the White House’s national monkeypox response deputy coordinator Demetre Daskalakis noted that recent data from the American Men’s Internet Survey (AMIS) found that men who have sex with men have reported changing their sexual habits in response to monkeypox, likely helping reduce transmission.

“I want to be cautiously optimistic about this, not only because of the downward trend but because of the AMIS data that Dr. Daskalakis just noted,” Walensky said.

Speaking on the AMIS data, Daskalakis said it indicated that “the LGBTQIA+ people are doing things that are actually reducing their risk and it’s working.”

“And it speaks to the resilience and commitment of this community to addressing the challenge of monkeypox using every tool in their toolkit,” Daskalakis added.

While cases appear to be trending down in some places, Walensky stressed that they are still on rise nationally. Nearly 17,000 cases have been confirmed by the CDC.

“The rate of rise is lower., but we are still seeing increases. And we are of course a very diverse country and things are not even across the country,” she said. “So we’re watching this with cautious optimism and really hopeful that many of our harm reduction messages and vaccines are getting out there and working.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) said earlier this week that the number of weekly reported monkeypox cases have fallen by 20 percent. The organization attributed the downward trend in Europe to a combination of public health measures, vaccinations and behavioral changes

According to the White House on Friday, roughly 1.1 million vials of vaccines to treat monkeypox have been made available to the public so far and the U.S. is nearing a point at which it will soon be able to provide two doses to everyone in the at-risk communities.

About 75 percent of jurisdictions are now administering shots intradermally and 20 percent are moving towards this strategy.

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