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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced it would not renew mpox, the virus formerly known as monkeypox, as a public health emergency after January 31, 2023, following a drop in cases.
Mpox cases, which peaked in August with a seven-day average of 459 new cases, fell steadily over the past months to an average of seven cases by the end of November.
“From the outset of the mpox outbreak, the Administration pulled every lever to stop the spread of this virus,” wrote Xavier Becerra, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, in a Friday press release. “Given the low number of cases today, HHS does not expect that it needs to renew the emergency declaration when it ends on January 31, 2023.”
The Department of Health and Human Services declared mpox a public health emergency in early August, with more than 7,500 cases confirmed.
The U.S. soon saw a slower rate of new cases beginning mid-August, making health officials cautiously optimistic soon after the announcement of a public health emergency. The seven-day average of new cases dropped 20% from Aug. 10 to Aug. 26.
A change in behavior, particularly among LGBTQ communities, helped curb the spread of mpox, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About half of respondents to a CDC survey said they had reduced “their number of sex partners, one-time sexual encounters, and use of dating apps because of the monkeypox outbreak,” according to a report released in September.
The vast majority of mpox cases are related to male-to-male sexual contact, according to the World Health Organization.
As of Dec. 2, a total of nearly 30,000 cases and 19 deaths have been confirmed in the U.S. and about 82,000 cases globally.
“We won’t take our foot off the gas – we will continue to monitor the case trends closely and encourage all at-risk individuals to get a free vaccine,” Becerra wrote. “As we move into the next phase of this effort, the Biden-Harris Administration continues working closely with jurisdictions and partners to monitor trends, especially in communities that have been disproportionately affected.”