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US Planning To Deploy Monkeypox Vaccines as Cases Rise

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The United States is set to provide monkeypox vaccines and treatments to infected individuals, with five cases either confirmed or probable and likely to rise, officials said Monday.

There is currently one confirmed US infection case in Massachusetts, and four other cases of people with orthopoxviruses—the family carrying the monkeypox virus—, officials of the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention announced at a press briefing.

Jenifer McQuiston, Deputy Director of the Division of High Consequence Pathogens and Pathology, said the suspected cases have been chalked off as monkeypox, pending confirmation by testing at CDC headquarters.

All four of the orthopoxvirus cases in the United States have been men with considerable travel history. Through genetic sequencing, the Massachusetts case matched that of an infected patient in Portugal and was identified to be the West African strain, the less severe of the two monkeypox strains.

Monkeypox is understood to have similar symptoms to smallpox albeit less fatal, with most people recovering within weeks. According to McQuiston, the US would be limiting the distribution of the vaccine to people with the most risk of exposure to the virus, like healthcare workers, people who have had contact with known infected patients, and others who might be at high risk.

The United States currently has around one thousand doses of JYNNEOS, a vaccine for smallpox and monkeypox approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a number which is expected to increase substantially as the manufacturing company is preparing to provide more doses.

An estimated 100 million doses of an older generation vaccine, ACAM2000, are also available although JYNNEOS is said to be the safer option as it is manufactured with a non-replicating live virus, unlike ACAM2000.

Monkeypox is transmitted through close, sustained skin-to-skin contact with an infected person who has an active rash, or through respiratory fluids from an infected person with sores in their mouth. The virus causes a rash accompanied by skin lesions and may be seen in certain areas of the body. A rash could also appear on genital or perianal areas in some cases.

For treatment, the CDC is currently developing treatment guidance to allow the distribution of tecovirimat and brincidofovir, both antivirals which are licensed for smallpox.

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