While mpox cases continue to decline across the United States and Europe, infections are steadily increasing in China.
In the week ending July 21, 117 cases were confirmed in China, according to data from the World Health Organization. Between the week ending May 5 and the week ending July 21, 315 cases were reported.
This comes after only six cases were confirmed in all of 2022, WHO data shows.
other than that China had the highest increase in the weekly number of cases over the past week with full reporting and cases have increased more than 50% over the last three weeksthe global health agency said.
“As we know from not only COVID… we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg and we’re not really sure what the true extent of the problem is,” Dr. Peter-Chin Hong, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California, San Francisco, told ABC News. “Obviously, mpox hasn’t gone away, and we’ve seen that here. But I think it’s exemplified in places that hadn’t seen a lot of mpox before.
“If you hadn’t seen it before, at some point it’s going to get there and probably infect people,” he added.
The global mpox outbreak began in the United Kingdom in the spring of 2022 before spreading across Europe and eventually to the United States. At this time, China still had COVID restrictions in place with only a few trips allowed in and out of the country.
The outbreak was primarily concentrated among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men, although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has noted that anyone — regardless of sexual orientation — can get the virus.
After seemingly poised to overwhelm the United States, the outbreak took a dramatic downward turn. Public health experts have said that the combination of people changing their behavior and a strong vaccination campaign helped beat back the disease.
Despite the WHO declaring the mpox health emergency to be over by May 2023, this is when cases began to rise in Asia, including Japan, Thailand and most recently China.
However, case reporting has not been regular in Beijing. The Chinese Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published only one reportlast month, which documented 106 cases in June.
Data on other monthly cases have not been released, reminiscent of irregular reporting during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Similarly, there are three vaccines in use around the world to prevent mpox: the Jynneos vaccine (the only one used in the US), ACAM2000, and Imvanex, although none are approved in China.
“There is a lot of nationalism in Chinese diagnostics and vaccines and therapy,” Chin-Hong said. “So China tends to want to use their homegrown stuff. And there are some early trials of a Chinese mpox vaccine, but there hasn’t really been much outreach, as far as we know, to the one factory that makes it, which is in Denmark.”
Chin-Hong also added that there has been a lack of urgency to combat the outbreak in China despite the rise in cases. Only the Chinese CDC issued a program to prevent and control the spread on July 26, which mentioned a public education program but not a vaccine campaign.
Chin-Hong added that while this does not appear to affect the United States, in today’s interconnected world, diseases can spread quite quickly, as we saw with COVID-19.
“We should worry because with these communicable diseases and the globalization of infectious diseases, what’s happening in China is not just in China, although (mpox) is certainly less communicable,” he said. “So, it can easily find its way to many places around the world again and lead to secondary outbreaks. So anything that happens in China, with the world opening up again, can affect other countries even faster.”