Sep 30, 2022 - News

D.C. sees significant decline in monkeypox cases

Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

D.C.’s monkeypox cases have been on a decline since mid-summer — with a 70% drop in cases over the past month.

Why it matters: D.C. cases reached their peak in July when officials saw dozens of cases, rushed to secure a dwindling supply of vaccine doses, and wrestled with how to frame public messaging.

By the numbers: By mid-September, D.C.’s daily case rate dropped to 1.9 cases per day with a seven-day rolling average, compared to 9.7 in July.

The city's vaccine push was likely a big driver behind the decline.

According to Anil Mangla, D.C.’s state epidemiologist, the District is one of the jurisdictions with the highest number of monkeypox vaccinations administered per 100,000 residents. More than 36,100 residents have been vaccinated.

  • New CDC data out Wednesday from 32 states found that unvaccinated men at risk for monkeypox between the ages 18 and 49 were 14 times more likely to become infected than those who had received one dose two weeks earlier, per the AP.

Zoom out: The outbreak has also slowed nationwide, likely in part due to vaccination and behavioral changes. Monkeypox has largely impacted men who have sex with men, a group that takes health very seriously and has experience with mobilizing to protect themselves especially due to the HIV epidemic, health experts say. Still, health officials worry that the disease will continue to impact vulnerable communities.

What worked: D.C. learned a lot about contact tracing and public health messaging during the pandemic, Mangla tells Axios.

  • That clear messaging through press releases and town halls helped spur interest in vaccination, he says.
  • The city also worked proactively to identify people who had been exposed and offer them vaccination.

Yes, and: The District focused on equity, Mangla added. Initially, D.C. required residents to pre-register for vaccines, but officials noticed that more than half of vaccine recipients were white, Mangla tells Axios.

This prompted DC Health to pivot to walk-up clinics, which have doubled the number of Black residents walking in for vaccines — although white residents still make up more than half of those vaccinated.

Be smart: Monkeypox remains a nationwide threat and people shouldn’t let their guard down — especially when the disease produces severe, debilitating, and painful symptoms.

Mangla says the city will continue to push vaccines, involving community providers and universities in vaccination efforts.

“Until we get to zero cases, D.C. will not slow down."


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