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Monkeypox cases rising rapidly in California amid vaccine shortage

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Nurses prepare doses of the Jynneos monkeypox vaccine at an LA County vaccination site in Los Angeles, California, the US, on August 10, 2022. (Photo by AFP)

Monkeypox cases are rising exponentially in California at a time when the only vaccine approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to protect against the infectious viral disease is running short across the United States.

The US reported about 450 monkeypox cases a day for the seven-day period that ended Tuesday, according to Our World in Data. That was double the rate from two weeks earlier.

More than 1,800 monkeypox cases have been reported in California as of Wednesday, according to a recent tally.

Doctors warned that an increased spread of the virus could make it impossible for health authorities to eliminate it as a new disease of concern in the US.

"When you look at the rates of increase, you can see that it's really approaching an exponential curve," an infectious disease expert Dr. Peter Chin-Hong warned.

"And unfortunately, it's going to become harder and harder to control the... higher these numbers get," said Chin-Hong of UC San Francisco. "Hopefully, we can contain this. But if not, it may bleed over into other populations."

The spread of monkeypox cases also has been amplified by some LGBTQ groups specifically, Chin-Hong said.

The virus can be transmitted through infected bedsheets and other household surfaces where there is continued exposure.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, monkeypox symptoms typically start within three weeks of exposure. The illness can last two to four weeks.

The current increased risk of infection comes as vaccine doses remain in short supply across the country.

In order to deal with the current shortage, US health officials authorized a new procedure for injecting the shots that should make it possible to inoculate more people with the same amount of the drug.

The manufacturer Bavarian Nordic, however, warned senior health officials about their plan to split doses.

"We do have some reservations… due to the very limited safety data available," Bavarian Nordic CEO Paul Chaplin wrote to the authorities in a letter obtained by The Washington Post.

At present, some 620,000 doses of the vaccine have been distributed across the country.

The US has registered nearly 9,000 cases of monkeypox, a fifth of them in New York State. The vast majority of cases involve men who belong to LGBTQ groups.

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