LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The nation — and the LGBTQ community in particular — watched nervously this summer as Mpox cases spread, but six months later the health emergency has expired. The official date: Jan. 31, 2023.
In Southern Nevada, cases peaked in mid-August, but less than 300 cases were diagnosed through 2022. Over the past 10 weeks, only six cases have been reported.
As with many health investigations, we won’t know the true numbers until well after the cases actually occur. A doctor makes a diagnosis, but reporting and classifying cases takes time. Data maintained by the Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD) shows the pattern now, months after the Mpox — known as monkeypox until the World Health Organization and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services changed the name on Nov. 28.
SNHD analysis shows 12 cases reported on a single day — Aug. 15. The district reports that 8,089 doses of vaccine were administered.
One death of a patient with monkeypox was reported in Clark County. When it was reported on Oct. 20, the death was attributed to causes other than monkeypox. The victim, a man in his 50s, reportedly had a compromised immune system.
Cases were highest in California (5,725 to date), but the death in Nevada was one of only 28 in the nation. The CDC now counts a total of 30,123 cases in the U.S.
The disease, which can cause a rash, fever, headache, muscle aches, exhaustion, swollen lymph nodes and chills was covered as a big story until cases dropped off. But now, some media reports looking back on the course of the outbreak say there are several reasons monkeypox wasn’t worse.
Among the biggest reasons: grassroots efforts in the gay community.
Amira Roess, a George Mason University professor of epidemiology and global health, told The Associated Press that leaders in the gay community “took it upon themselves to step in when the government response was really lacking” in a way that recalled what happened during the plodding government response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s.
Frank efforts to educate the LGBTQ community happened in Las Vegas and cities across the nation. Politically correct language — “coy” in the view of Vanderbilt University infectious disease expert Dr. William Schaffner — wasn’t getting the message across. The information wasn’t getting to gay men who were most at risk.
Another factor that might have prevented further cases involved a change in how vaccines were used as supplies dropped right when the disease was getting the most attention. The CDC revised instructions to the medical community, reducing the recommended dose to about a fifth of the previous dose. The injection was changed to just under the skin instead of deep tissue.
The new vaccine strategy proved just as effective, according to U.S. health officials.
“We’re in a remarkably different place,” Schaffner said in January. “It’s really impressive how that peak has come down to very, very low levels.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.