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Monkeypox cases in county continue to increase but at slower rate

New cases of monkeypox continue to be identified in Clark County but at a slower rate than in previous weeks, a trend seen in much of the country.

“I’m holding my breath because it would appear that in many parts of the country, we’re kind of plateauing,” said Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University.

There are even early signs of a potential downturn in the U.S., as has been seen in some other parts of the world. “It would appear that our vaccination program is really having an effect,” Schaffner said in an interview Wednesday.

Confirmed and probable cases in Clark County increased to 185 from the prior week’s 166, according to data released Wednesday by the Southern Nevada Health District. The week before, cases numbered 134, and the week before that, 100.

This year, there have been outbreaks around the world of the once-rare disease. The virus, which is spreading primarily through intimate skin-to-skin contact, is circulating largely within the social networks of men who have sex with men, public health authorities have said.

But monkeypox — which also can be transmitted through respiratory secretions and other body fluids, as well as through shared linens and towels — can infect anyone.

“Monkeypox has not yet burst out of the population that it is most affecting,” men who have sex with men, Schaffner said. “It has not made a major inroad into the larger general population so far.” This inroad may be prevented if more vaccine doses become available and more people in turn opt to get vaccinated, he said.

As in the rest of the country, the cases in Clark County continue to be primarily in men. Of the 185 county cases, 180 are in men and the remainder in women, transgender or gender-nonconforming people.

Seventy-one percent are in people identifying as LGBTQ and 5 percent in heterosexuals, with the sexual orientation of the remaining 24 percent unknown.

“The people that are at highest risk for the disease have gotten it, and that gives lifetime immunity,” said Brian Labus, an assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at UNLV’s School of Public Health.

With vaccination, “there’s a lot of immunity now in that population, and if it burns itself out there without making that transition to other groups, that’s kind of the end of the outbreak.”

In the past week, the county’s first case in a person older than 64 was was identified. No cases have been identified in anyone 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.

Contact Mary Hynes at mhynes@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0336. Follow @MaryHynes1 on Twitter.

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