New York City health officials added a handful of new suspected monkeypox cases to the burgeoning count on Wednesday, sending the total caseload to 62 as federal authorities expanded their vaccination guidance amid the rare U.S. disease outbreak.
The latest additions mark a doubling of cases in the last six days and a 288% increase in the last two weeks -- and likely barely scratch the surface of the actual count.
Experts agree the New York City -- and the national -- total is likely significantly underreported, given limited testing and other issues around monkeypox, a disease that is typically confined to the African continent.
The health department announced the latest case count in a Wednesday tweet that was notably -- and similarly, to ones Monday and Tuesday -- bereft of reference to new appointments opening up at the lone Manhattan clinic prepared to offer the vaccine.
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New York City began offering vaccination against monkeypox last week to at-risk groups, with the outbreak primarily linked at this point to men having sex with men, according to officials, but demand was so high walk-ins were closed within hours.
After once again running out of vaccines over the weekend, the city's health department said it was in continued talks with the CDC to secure more doses. It's not clear when the supply might stabilize, but Mayor Eric Adams says the city is ready.
"They gave us 1,000. As soon as they gave us 1,000, we issued out 1,000. And so we're now trying to get more here in the city to give them out," Adams said Tuesday. "And as soon as they give them to us we're going to give them out."
State Senator Brad Hoylman told NBC New York that the state planned to announce more vaccines are on the way — but as of early afternoon Wednesday, that announcement has yet to come.
"This is yet another example of a public health failure. And consider what we just went through with COVID-19, we should be much more prepared," said NYC Council Member Erik Bottcher, one of the local leaders who say that the government is failing the city and its comparatively larger LGTBQ population.
In total, New York City represents more than 20% of the 306 cases diagnosed nationwide, according to the CDC. There have been at least two cases in New Jersey, while Connecticut has not seen any, according to federal data.
While monkeypox is contagious and rare in the United States, health officials say the risk to the general public is quite low. And this isn't COVID all over again.
As opposed to the early days of the COVID pandemic, when there was no effective treatment, there are already multiple vaccines that work against the orthopoxvirus that causes monkeypox. It's just a matter, again, of ensuring sufficient supply.
Bavarian Nordic, which manufactures the Jynneos vaccine for monkeypox and smallpox, says it is committed to getting its doses anywhere they are needed.
"We support the decision of health clinics in New York City and the United States government to proactively offer Jynneos to at-risk communities," a company spokesperson said. "The distribution of the vaccine around the world is controlled by governments. In the United States, the distribution of the vaccine is managed by the CDC. To date, we have not turned down a single order from governments that have requested doses of the vaccine. In the days ahead, we will be working to produce more vaccine if it is required."
The U.S. government said Tuesday it was immediately releasing 56,000 doses of the Jynneos vaccine from the strategic national stockpile, which will be followed by 240,000 doses in the coming weeks.
For now, the lone NYC clinic offering monkeypox vaccines as available is the Chelsea Sexual Health Clinic (303 Ninth Avenue in Manhattan). The clinic is open on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The clinic has previously had to turn people away after running out of the vaccine.
How Do You Catch Monkeypox?
The CDC issued new monkeypox guidance last week as the number of suspected cases nationwide boomed, marking America's largest-ever outbreak of monkeypox, which typically has been confined to other continents.
While the CDC says the risk to the general public remains low, people are urged to avoid close contact with those who are sick, including those with skin or genital lesions, as well as sick or dead animals. Anyone displaying symptoms, like unexplained skin rash or lesions, should reach out to their healthcare providers for guidance.
It is also advised to avoid eating meat that comes from wild game or using products (such as creams, powders or lotions) that come from wild animals from Africa.
What Is Monkeypox?
Monkeypox was first discovered in 1958, when outbreaks occurred in colonies of monkeys kept for research -- resulting in its name. (What you need to know about monkeypox.)
The first case in a human was reported in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which still has the majority of infections. Other African countries where it has been found: Cameroon, Central African Republic, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Liberia, Nigeria, Republic of the Congo and Sierra Leone.
Human symptoms of monkeypox are similar to but milder than the symptoms of smallpox, the CDC says. It presents itself as a flu-like illness accompanied by lymph-node swelling and rash on the face and body.
Monkeypox starts off with fever, headache, muscle aches, and exhaustion. Monkeypox also causes lymph nodes to swell, something that smallpox does not. The incubation period is usually 7−14 days but can range from 5−21 days.
The CDC is urging healthcare providers in the U.S. to be alert for patients who have rashes consistent with monkeypox, regardless of whether they have traveled or have specific risks for monkeypox. See more information from the travel notice here.