The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says it has “moderate” confidence that the rate of monkeypox cases in the U.S. will continue to decline or hit a plateau in the next two weeks.
In its latest technical report on the monkeypox outbreak, the CDC listed three possible directions in which cases could go. Apart from a decline or plateau, the agency said cases could also begin rising “slowly” or “rapidly” with exponential growth.
“We assess daily cases in the United States will most likely continue to decline or plateau over the next two to four weeks. We have moderate confidence in this assessment but note the possibility, as described above, that incidence could increase again,” said the CDC.
Monkeypox cases in the U.S. have continued to drop in the past few weeks after peaking in August, with the seven-day moving average now standing at 144 per day. The CDC noted that cases are not declining across all jurisdictions.
Health officials have largely attributed this drop in cases to a change in behavior among men who have sex with men, who have been most affected by the outbreak, as well as the vaccine campaign, though the CDC noted in its report that vaccinations were unlikely to fully explain the drop in cases as it was observed when immunization rates were still relatively low.
While the agency expressed some confidence in cases not going up, the CDC said it was “unlikely” that the spread of monkeypox would be entirely eliminated in the U.S.
“While unlikely, elimination could occur if monkeypox is and remains concentrated in a high-risk subset of MSM, and vaccination efforts are focused on this exposure group and are effective in preventing infection, both factors which would cause faster declines in transmission,” the CDC said. “However, we view this scenario as unlikely due to the possibility of continued introductions and onward transmission.”
The factors casting uncertainty over the future of monkeypox cases include the uptake of vaccinations for monkeypox, the possible spread of asymptomatic cases and the potential for viral mutations.
Nearly 70,000 cases and 27 related deaths have been confirmed worldwide.