Monkeypox Continues to Circulate Among Men Having Sex with Men (HSH)

Despite a significant decrease in monkeypox cases since the global epidemic of 2022, monkeypox continues to circulate quietly among men having sex with men (HSH), according to a comprehensive analysis by a team of epidemiologists from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). The updated data, published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), emphasize the importance of vigilance and vaccination among HSH individuals.

Monkeypox is an endemic infection in Africa that is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact. The infection causes fever and painful skin blisters, which typically resolve on their own but can rarely lead to death in immunocompromised individuals.

While the epidemic has significantly declined since the end of 2022 due to education and vaccination efforts, the reemergence of monkeypox remains a real threat. This is attributed to low vaccination coverage among HSH individuals and incomplete knowledge of risks in more vulnerable groups. Recent localized outbreaks have occurred in disadvantaged areas in the United States, particularly in Chicago and Los Angeles, prompting a closer examination of transmission sources and groups.

A study conducted from June to December 2023 analyzed data from 196 participants, with 45% being women, 20% children, 10% experiencing unstable housing, and over half belonging to minority groups.

– Monkeypox was diagnosed in 3 participants, representing 1.5% of the total, all of whom were HSH individuals.
– None of the diagnosed individuals were vaccinated against monkeypox.
– All reported having had sexual relations with one or more partners in the weeks leading up to the diagnosis.

The lead author, Dr. David Talan, a professor of emergency medicine/infectious diseases at UCLA, interpreted these results, stating that the study aimed to determine if infection occurred in unvaccinated non-HSH participants.

Public health officials are closely monitoring the emergence of new strains of monkeypox, particularly a more transmissible and virulent strain currently circulating in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Dr. Carl Berdahl, a professor of emergency medicine at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, highlighted the significance of this development.