Mpox Is Still Circulating Among U.S. Gay Men

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Medically Reviewed By:
Ernie Mundell

Key Takeaways

  • Though at much lower levels than those seen in 2022, cases of mpox are still occurring among U.S. gay and bisexual men

  • Three cases uncovered in late 2023 were found in unvaccinated gay/bisexual men who'd had multiple sexual partners

  • Vaccination is a sure way of warding off the painful, sometimes fatal, illness

THURSDAY, June 6, 2024 (HealthDay News) -- Though not at numbers seen in the 2022 outbreak, mpox cases are still circulating in the United States, largely among gay and bisexual men, new government data shows.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the outbreak of mpox (formerly known as monkeypox) viral illness in the United States during 2022 sickened more than 32,000 people and killed 58. The outbreak ebbed after education campaigns and vaccinations among high-risk groups were initiated.

However, mpox remains a global threat, with a major outbreak unfolding in central Africa.

And now a new report finds sporadic U.S. cases of mpox are still occurring among men who have sex with men.

The study involved 196 people treated at 13 U.S. hospital emergency departments between June and December of 2023. The patients were selected because they showed up with rashes that were compatible with the rash seen with mpox disease. Forty-five percent were female and 20% were children.

Of the total cohort, only three people (1.5%) turned out to have mpox. All three were gay or bisexual men who hadn't been vaccinated for mpox and said they'd had multiple sexual partners they'd met via dating apps.

Mpox is spread through close personal contact. This typically involves skin-to-skin contact, so sex can often be a means of transmission. Initial symptoms include fever, chills, exhaustion, headache and muscle weakness, often followed by a rash with lesions that scab over and slowly heal over a period of weeks.

Although anyone can get mpox, men who have sex with men are particularly at risk, and those who have HIV are more vulnerable to severe disease.

Luckily, there is an mpox vaccine, manufactured under the brand name Jynneos. It's a two-dose regimen, with shots given about a month apart.

Study co-leader Dr. David Talan, a professor of emergency medicine/infectious diseases at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, said keeping track of mpox is crucial.

“Clinicians should remain vigilant for mpox infections, particularly in gay and bisexual men who have sex with men, and educate patients on risk reduction, including the importance of vaccination,” Berdahl said.

The study was published June 6 in the CDC journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

More information

Find out more about mpox risks and prevention at the World Health Organization.

SOURCE: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, June 6, 2024; UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, news release, June 6, 2024

What This Means For You

Cases of mpox have subsided in the United States but are still being detected in gay and bisexual men; if you're in this risk group then vaccination is crucial.

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