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Almost 90% of US mpox-related deaths were in Black men, and nearly all had weakened immune systems, CDC reports

An electron microscopic (EM) image shows mature, oval-shaped monkeypox virus particles as well as crescents and spherical particles of immature virions, obtained from a clinical human skin sample associated with the 2003 prairie dog outbreak in this undated image. (Photo: Cynthia S. Goldsmith, Russell Regnery/CDC/Reuters)

(CNN) — Almost 90% of mpox-related deaths in the United States were among Black men, and nearly all had weakened immune systems, according to a new report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

From May 2022 to March 2023, 30,235 people in the US were diagnosed with mpox, previously known as monkeypox. Thirty-eight deaths were linked to mpox; 36 of them were men, and 33 were Black men. The average age of those who died was 34.

Mpox spreads through close contact, and it can infect anyone. during the 2022 outbreak, infections were mostly among gay or bisexual men or other men who have sex with men.

Most people hospitalized for severe cases of mpox were Black men with uncontrolled HIV that may have caused a weakened immune system, according to the report, which was published Thursday.

Although most of the people who died got one or more prompt treatments and intensive care, nearly a quarter had delays of three to seven weeks from diagnosis to treatment, and two got no treatment for mpox.

“These findings highlight the importance of integrating prevention, testing, and treatment for multiple sexually associated infections,” the report says. “Equitable access to prevention, treatment, and engagement and retention in care for both mpox and HIV should be prioritized, particularly among Black men and other persons at risk for sexually associated infections.”

A separate CDC report published Thursday urged equity-based strategies, such as tailored messages and expanded vaccine services, to increase vaccination among racial and ethnic minorities.

Early in last year’s outbreak, vaccination rates were lower among Black and Hispanic men than among White men, but by August, rates among Black and Hispanic men exceeded those among White men. However, the vaccination-to-case ratio was lower among Black and Hispanic men, and vaccination rates were not proportionate to the “elevated incidence rates” among Black men, the report said, leaving vaccination needs unmet.

Between May and December 2022, 723,112 people in the US received the first of two doses of the mpox vaccine, and 89.7% of the doses were given to men.

“Continued implementation of equity-based vaccination strategies is needed to further increase vaccination rates and reduce the incidence of mpox among all racial and ethnic groups,” the report says.

More than 30,000 people have been diagnosed with mpox in the United States as of Wednesday, and 42 people have died, according to the CDC.

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