US records record 1,424 new monkeypox cases on Monday

The U.S. logged a record 1,424 monkeypox cases on Monday, the highest total since the global outbreak first found its way stateside in May. It comes as officials are starting to raise concerns about the virus running rampant on college campuses during the upcoming semester.

Monday’s figures bring America’s overall case total to 8,934 — putting the U.S. on track to be the first nation to eclipse 9,000 confirmed infection when officials report new figures Tuesday. It is likely that these figures are a severe undercount because of the lack of testing.

This outbreak could soon get worse as well. The new school year is set to begin at colleges and universities across the U.S. in the coming weeks. Young students are more likely to engage in careless sexual behavior, creating a perfect storm for potential monkeypox outbreaks around the nation.

Unlike Covid in 2020, many universities also do not have dedicated response plans to the virus either — making rampant spread even more likely once the virus is brought onto campus.

‘As we head into the fall, I’m concerned about outbreaks on college campuses as they are often a place where individuals engage in higher risk sexual activity and are in close contact with many different people,’ Dr Rachel Cox, an assistant professor in at the Mass General Health Institute of Health Professionals, told CNN.

‘We need to make sure we’re prepared to allocate resources like tests, vaccines, and antivirals to places that may become hotspots.’

Not all experts believe the outbreak will absolutely spiral out of control, though.

Dr Scott Gottlieb, former head of the Food and Drug Administration and current board member at pharma-giant Pfizer, told CBS’ Face the Nation on Sunday that while difficult, it is possible to prevent monkeypox from becoming an endemic virus — a prospect officials likely failed with Covid.

Former FDA Chief Dr Scott Gottlieb (pictured) told CBS’ Face the Nation that America’s monkeypox outbreak can still be controlled

He says that the response to the virus has to be wider to control it, though. At the moment, testing has mainly been reserved to just gay and bisexual men — who make up a overwhelming majority of cases. Gottlieb believes that more cases would be found if testing was expanded beyond just that community.

‘There’s a potential to get this back in the box but its going to be very difficult at this point,’ Gottlieb said.

‘We’re continuing to look for cases in the community of men who have sex with men, its primarily spreading in that community, but there’s no question it has spread outside that community at this point and I think we need to start looking for cases more broadly.’

While exact federal data is not available, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr Rochelle Walensky said during a briefing last week that they still make up a majority of cases.

America is facing a shortage of both testing and vaccines at the moment, though, meaning that they have been reserved for men who have sex with other men to this point.

The CDC has greatly expanded its testing capacity in recent weeks, now being able to perform 80,000 per week across its own testing and agreements set up with private partners.

Last week Walensky said that only around ten percent of America’s testing capacity was being used, opening the door for significant expansions in the amount of people that should be tested.

Gottlieb said that any person with an atypical case of either shingles or herpes should be tested for monkeypox at this point.

Expanding testing will either find more cases — giving officials more information they can use to control the outbreak — or will confirm more people as negative and confirm areas where the virus is not spreading.

He also believes the CDC should begin wastewater surveillance — which can give more general pictures of where the virus is spreading without individual testing.

Despite his concerns, Gottlieb does not think the virus has reached a point where the average American should be worried.

‘I don’t think this is something people need to be generally worried about,’ he explained.

‘I think the incidence of this infection in the broader community is still very low. Your risk of coming into contact with monkeypox is still exceedingly low outside of certain social networks where you see a higher case rate.

‘If you want to contain it… we need to start looking more widely for it.’

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