Monkeypox cases start to slow in LA County

New cases of monkeypox are starting to flatten out in Los Angeles County, echoing a trend seen elsewhere as more vaccination doses are handed out and some people cut back on riskier sex.

LA County reported 1,349 cumulative cases of monkeypox on Thursday, up 30% from the previous Thursday’s tally of 1,036 cases.

The percentage increase is lower than in previous weeks: between August 5 and August 11, there was a 62% increase in cumulative cases. The previous week-over-week increase was up 71%.

“Although a month ago we were seeing a doubling of monkeypox cases in as little as nine days, we are now seeing a leveling off in the number of new cases per week. And our doubling time has gone to 16 days,” said Dr. Rita Singhal, chief medical officer for the LA County Department of Public Health.

“This may be an early indication that transmission is starting to slow down. Similar trends are seen in countries where the outbreak began and in other jurisdictions across the United States,” Singhal said.

In late July and early August, LA County was seeing new monkeypox cases increase by about 50% each week, according to a Times analysis. But by mid-August, new cases leveled off, with 300 additional cases reported per week.

If LA County had continued to see a 50% increase in monkeypox cases each week in August, it would now see nearly 700 cases per week.

Nationally, as of Thursday, there were 16,603 cumulative cases of monkeypox, a 23% week-over-week increase, but that’s more modest than the previous 30% change in week to week.

Globally, there were 45,535 cumulative cases of monkeypox on Thursday, up 15% from the previous week. This is a smaller increase than the previous change of 24% week-over-week.

There are a few possible factors for the apparent slowdown in cases. Monkeypox requires prolonged close contact to spread – usually intimate skin-to-skin contact – and is nowhere near as transmissible as the coronavirus.

“When you have an infectious agent like this, it’s going to what we call ‘burn out’ faster when it’s in a community or among a group of people,” Singhal said during a Thursday briefing.

The disease is characterized by virus-filled rashes and lesions that may look like pimples, bumps, or blisters. It can first appear in the genital area and rectum before spreading to other parts of the body, and since rashes can be confused with other skin problems, the virus can easily spread through dating. intimate. The risk is higher for people with multiple sex partners.

Behavioral changes in those most at risk of monkeypox may also have played a role, she said, as could the continued rollout of vaccines. Singhal said survey data from Emory University suggests gay and bisexual men are decreasing riskier sexual activity in light of the outbreak.

“We are cautiously optimistic that this is going to be real and that it will hold,” Singhal said. “I can say for us here in LA County, it’s leveling off. I would not say that it is still decreasing.

At Thursday’s press conference, Troy Masters — publisher of the Los Angeles Blade, an LGBTQ newspaper — said another factor may be at play.

“A lot of people have stopped reporting their illness because it’s mild,” Masters said. “I know about this from many friends. They keep an eye on it. If it gets out of control, then they contact their doctor.

But even mild cases should be reported, as it allows public health officials to help stop the spread, said Dr. Muntu Davis, the county health officer.

“It’s really helpful not only to think about the disease you have, but also about others who may have been infected and who could potentially be prevented from getting the disease through vaccination and helping us as a community to really stop transmission of this disease,” he said. .

San Francisco is also seeing a possible flattening or decrease in monkeypox cases. Between July 29 and August 4, San Francisco reported 143 new cases of monkeypox. But in the seven-day period that ended Thursday, it reported 77 new cases.

More than 3,000 probable or confirmed cases of monkeypox have been reported statewide, according to the latest available numbers. The bulk of those are in LA County and San Francisco, but San Diego, Alameda, Riverside, Santa Clara, Sacramento and Orange counties have all reported at least 100 cases.

“We urge those at high risk to be cautious with their partners and to have any signs of monkeypox checked by a physician immediately,” San Diego County Public Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten said in a statement. this week.

Orange County health officials this week confirmed the county’s first case of monkeypox in a child, a rare occurrence even as the virus continues to spread across the state.

There have been at least five other juvenile cases of monkeypox in California. Yet youth illnesses only account for about 2% of the state’s total monkeypox cases.

“Remember, monkeypox is very rare in children,” said Orange County Health Officer Dr. Regina Chinsio-Kwong. “It is important to note that many childhood illnesses can cause rashes. If you or your children have a new or unusual rash, please follow the preventative advice and consult a qualified healthcare professional for further recommendations.

In LA County, the median age of people with confirmed cases of monkeypox remains 35. While 47 people have been hospitalized with the disease, no one has died in the United States, Singhal said. Worldwide, there have been five deaths attributed to monkeypox in countries that have never seen a case of monkeypox until this outbreak.

“Although we continue to see cases of monkeypox, the risk of monkeypox infection in the general population continues to remain very low in Los Angeles County,” Singhal said.

There have been six reported cases of monkeypox in Los Angeles County in congregate housing, such as homeless shelters and the prison system.

As of Friday, 46% of cases for which geographic information is available had been reported in the Health Services Planning Area covering a central part of the county – a strip that is home to about 12% of county residents and includes West Hollywood, Hollywood, downtown Los Angeles, Eagle Rock, Highland Park, Echo Park, Silver Lake, Los Feliz and Boyle Heights.

In LA County, 98% of monkeypox cases are in men. Additionally, of monkeypox cases with known sexual orientation, 97% occur in people who identify as gay or bisexual, Singhal said.

The supply of vaccines has increased significantly in recent times. Until recently, LA County had received more than 72,000 doses of the Jynneos vaccine. The county distributed all doses to vaccinators and over 48,000 doses were administered.

Additionally, LA County just received more than 40,000 doses of the vaccine, Singhal said. An additional 80,000 doses have been awarded to LA County.

Once it fully receives those additional 120,000 doses, Singhal estimates, LA County will be able to fully vaccinate nearly 100,000 residents with the two-dose series of vaccinations. That’s about 56% of the estimated 180,000 LA County residents considered to be at higher risk for monkeypox infection, Singhal said.

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