The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health experts are warning of the possibility of an mpox comeback this spring and summer ahead of festivals and pride events.
"There are a lot of celebrations within our populations that are at highest risk for getting impacts, and we don't want to see a month-long celebration turn into a tragedy," said Dr. Kristin Englund, infectious disease specialist at Cleveland Clinic.
Mpox is a viral infection that was formerly known as the monkeypox virus. It spreads from skin-to-skin and intimate contact. Almost all cases involve a rash that includes very painful bumps. Other symptoms can include fever, fatigue, headache, chills or swollen lymph nodes.
"There have been many reported cases in the LGBTQ community. However, the risk factor is really the behavior of having many intimate partners with a lot of skin-to-skin contact," said Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, medical director of disease control at Maricopa County Department of Public Health.
The CDC cites a recent uptick of 21 new mpox cases in Chicago that began in mid-April.
CDC wastewater surveillance from the past four weeks show random detections of the virus in five states: New York, Maryland, South Carolina, California and Texas. Only one state, Virginia, has shown a consistent detection, meaning the virus was detected in more than 80% of samples in the past four weeks. The most recent detection was within the past two weeks.
Since 2022, the U.S. has seen more than 30,000 cases, and there have been more than 80,000 cases recorded worldwide.
At the height of the mpox outbreak last year, the CDC counted hundreds of new cases a day.
Earlier in May, the World Health Organization ended the global health emergency for mpox.
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There is a vaccine for mpox. The latest research shows with two doses taken, the vaccine can be about 90 percent effective, but fewer than half of those most at risk have gotten even one dose.
Health experts are encouraging more people at risk to get the vaccine.
"We don't know how long the vaccination is going to provide immunity, nor do we know how long necessarily natural disease is going to provide immunity," Englund said.
Patrick Kelly owns a store in Maricopa County, Arizona, which just detected their first mpox case this year. He's partnered with the county health department to hold two vaccine clinics to help.
"I think it's important to explain to the customers because my average customers may or may not know that there's something out there and they can be infected," he said.
If you're showing symptoms of mpox, call your doctor and isolate yourself to prevent spreading the virus. The CDC has included a search tool for an mpox vaccine clinic near you.
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