New cases of monkeypox continue to be identified in Clark County, but at a slower rate than in previous weeks, a trend seen across much of the country.
“I’m holding my breath because it looks like in many parts of the country we’re plateauing,” said Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University.
There are even early signs of a potential slowdown in the United States, as seen in other parts of the world. “It looks like our vaccination program is really having an effect,” Schaffner said in an interview Wednesday.
Confirmed and probable cases in Clark County rose to 185 from 166 the previous week, according to data released Wednesday by the Southern Nevada Health District. The previous week, the cases numbered 134 and the week before, 100.
This year there have been worldwide outbreaks of this once rare disease. The virus, which is spread primarily through intimate skin-to-skin contact, is circulating widely in the social networks of men who have sex with men, public health authorities said.
However, monkeypox – which can also be transmitted through respiratory secretions and other bodily fluids, as well as shared sheets and towels – can infect anyone.
“Monkey pox has yet to break out in the population it affects most,” Schaffner said. “It hasn’t made a major inroad into the general population so far.” This incursion could be averted if more vaccine doses become available and more people choose to get vaccinated, he said.
As in the rest of the country, cases in Clark County continue to be predominantly among men. Of the county’s 185 cases, 180 are for men and the rest for women, transgender or gender non-conforming people.
Seventy-one percent are people who identify as LGBTQ and 5% are heterosexual, with the sexual orientation of the remaining 24% unknown.
“The people most at risk of getting the disease have it, which confers lifelong immunity,” said Brian Labus, assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at UNLV’s School of Public Health. Coupled with vaccination, “there is now a lot of immunity in this population, and if they burn themselves out without making this transition to other groups, that’s sort of the end of the epidemic.”
In the past week, the county’s first case in a person over the age of 64 has been identified. No cases have been identified in those under the age of 18.
Nationwide, there have been 21,274 identified cases of monkeypox since May. The virus, characterized by a rash or lesions and flu-like symptoms, is rarely fatal, but can be very painful and lead to scarring.