NIHCM Newsletter / August 2022

Monkeypox is a Public Health Emergency

Released: August 9, 2022

The Latest on Monkeypox

The World Health Organization declared the monkeypox outbreak a global health emergency as the number of confirmed cases has increased to over 30,000 across 88 countries with more than 8,900 cases in the U.S. (as of August 9th, 2022). On August 4th, President Biden declared monkeypox a national public health emergency.

  • Vaccines: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that nearly 786,000 doses of the monkeypox vaccine will be made available for distribution. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that nearly 1.5 million people are eligible for the vaccine.
  • Not a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI): While monkeypox cases have predominately been found among men who have sex with men, it is neither an STI nor does it only impact specific communities. Transmission can occur through skin-to-skin contact, touching contaminated objects, respiratory secretions, and during pregnancy. Experts have warned that stigmatizing messaging reinforces stereotypes and can undermine response efforts, as was the case during the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
  • Impact on Health Clinics: Sexual health clinics, which have already been under pressure from years of underfunding and COVID-19, are now on the frontline of the growing monkeypox outbreak.
  • Outlook: Many have compared the response to monkeypox in the U.S. to that of the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite recent expansions in testing capacity, areas are still facing shortages, delays in getting results, and a lack of reliable ways to test.


Q&A on the Overdose Crisis

The CDC estimates that more than 107,000 Americans died of drug overdoses last year - a record high. Learn more about the overdose crisis:

Q: How are racial disparities widening in overdose deaths?
A: According to a CDC report, overdose deaths are increasing fast among Black and Indigenous people. Black people ages 15 to 24 had an 86% increase in death rates compared to a 34% increase among White people of the same age group. The disproportionate increase among Black and Indigenous people may be due to health inequities, like unequal access to treatment.

Q: What is the role of fentanyl in the overdose crisis?
Deaths involving illicitly manufactured fentanyl are on the rise, which is often mixed with other illicit drugs without the user’s knowledge. Fentanyl-related deaths in the U.S. occur more often than gun and auto-related deaths combined. The Drug Enforcement Agency warns of a nationwide spike in fentanyl-related mass-overdose events.

Q: How does harm reduction reduce overdose deaths?
The Biden administration’s strategy to address the overdose crisis is the first to incorporate harm reduction strategies, which include access to naloxone (the antidote to opioid overdoses), sterile needles, drug test strips, and supervised injection sites.

Q: Are people with addiction able to receive treatment?
A recent study found that 87% of people with opioid use disorder (OUD) do not receive evidence-based treatment. Medications for OUD can reduce opioid overdoses by 50%.

Q: What about people with chronic pain?
The 2016 CDC guidelines for prescribing opioids for pain have been credited with leading to harmful consequences for patients with chronic pain. The 2022 proposed guidelines remove the upper limits for prescription opioids, emphasize a patient-centric approach, and expand on alternative treatments.

Resources & Initiatives:

SAMHSA’s National Helpline for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders is 1-800-662-HELP.

Keeping COVID at Bay

People who previously had COVID-19 are becoming reinfected from new omicron subvariants. The pace of COVID-19 deaths has plateaued since May, with 12,500 Americans dying of COVID-19 in July. The Pfizer antiviral Paxlovid keeps high-risk COVID-19 patients out of the hospital.

Resources & Initiatives:

Environmental Health

A recent poll reported that 53% of U.S. adults have personally felt the implications of climate change. In the months ahead, federal agencies project more abnormally hot weather, flooding, droughts, wildfires, and hurricane activity which threaten human health.

Resources and Initiatives:

In Other Public Health News…

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