The monkeypox outbreak, which rattled communities over the summer and created yet another public health crisis following the COVID-19 pandemic, is beginning to wane locally and nationally amid a vaccination and education campaign, medical officials said last week.
While Long Island continues to represent the largest percentage of monkeypox cases in the state, outside of New York City, trends seem to pointing in the right direction, health officials said.
Cases statewide have dropped since Aug. 25 after peaking in early July, according to State Department of Health data.
Nassau County and Suffolk County health officials have also reported a decline in new cases in recent weeks — mirroring a trend in New York City, the epicenter of the crisis.
"The monkeypox outbreak is not gone," said Dr. Bruce Farber, chief of public health and epidemiology for Northwell Health. "But I do think it is waning. Numbers have fallen nationally and locally over the past several weeks. And the trend seems to be real. So clearly, I think things are improving."
Monkeypox is a rare but highly contagious viral infection spread through intimate, often skin-to-skin contact. While any person can get monkeypox, the overwhelming percentage of those who have contracted the virus in the current outbreak are men who have sex with men, experts said.
Since the epidemic began in early summer, Suffolk has reported 64 monkeypox cases — second among suburban counties behind Westchester with 84 — while Nassau has reported another 49 cases, according to State Department of Health data. Together, Long Island represents more than 39% of all cases in the state outside of the city, the data shows.
“The increase in cases has slowed significantly, as has the demand for monkeypox vaccine, indicating that members of the community are listening to public health warnings and taking the appropriate measures to protect themselves from the virus," said Dr. Gregson Pigott, Suffolk's health commissioner.
New York City has reported 3,339 total cases, about 1,000 fewer than the entire state of California, but those numbers have dropped since late July, data shows.
On July 25, the city reported 95 new monkeypox cases for the day. But thus far in September, there hasn't been a day where the city has clocked more than 20 new cases while the seven-day average has dropped since Aug. 1, according to the New York City Health Department.
Across the country, where nearly 22,000 cases have been reported, incidents of monkeypox have been declining since late-August, but not at the same rate as in New York State, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dr. Sharon Nachman, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at Stony Brook Children's Hospital, said a high-profile public education campaign, which has targeted men who have sex with multiple or anonymous male sex partners, along with increased access to the monkeypox vaccine and tests, have probably contributed to the decline.
But she said it is too soon to declare victory.
"The number of new cases has been dropping," Nachman said. "But I, like others, share concerns about that small snapshot of time because we recently had a holiday weekend and are concerned about incubation time. So we're not out of the woods yet. We will clearly need to track new cases over the next several weeks."
As of Friday, Nassau's Department of Health had received 3,560 vials of the monkeypox vaccine and administered 2,840 doses, according to county spokesman Chris Boyle. Suffolk had received 9,220 vials and has administered 7,402 total doses, said county spokeswoman Marykate Guilfoyle.
In recent weeks, vaccination centers began administering fractional doses of the scarce monkeypox vaccine intradermally, or injected into the skin, rather than subcutaneously under the skin, officials said. Fractionating is typically done by splitting each dose into five parts, yielding five times as many shots.
LGBT Network president David Kilmnick said his Hauppauge-based organization has conducted continuous outreach in-person and through social media, providing guidance about treatment of monkeypox and ways to reduce its spread.
"The ultimate goal should be to get out ahead of this and we cannot slow down our efforts," he said. "More and more this looks like it’s going to be a marathon, not a sprint in needing to do the hard sustained work to stop the spread of monkeypox."