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Mpox still spreading, Oregon officials warn as cases climb again

Oregon cases of the monkeypox virus, which health officials recently renamed “mpox,” have seen a modest resurgence following a nearly month-long stretch with only a handful of new cases reported each week.

State health officials reported 24 new cases of mpox during the three-week period ending Wednesday — three times as many as during the prior three weeks, state data shows. The increase means an October lull in new cases did not spell the end of Oregon’s outbreak, which the state says has so far infected 265 people.

While not remotely as contagious as common respiratory viruses like COVID-19 or the flu, mpox can come with excruciatingly painful lesions and other symptoms. It spreads primarily through skin-to-skin contact and, in particular, sex, though people physically caring for an infected person can also get the virus.

The medical establishment is following the World Health Organization’s lead in referring to the virus by its new name, mpox, instead of monkeypox, which some health agencies have deemed to be a stigmatizing and potentially racist name.

While the mpox virus can theoretically infect any person who has been sufficiently exposed, the outbreak in Oregon and nationally has affected gay, bisexual and queer men most. Only 11 Oregonians who had an infection told officials they are heterosexual and no more than five said they are women, state data show.

The outbreak peaked in early August at about 10 to 15 new cases diagnosed each week, the Oregon Health Authority said in a statement Tuesday. Following that peak, new cases fell to about three a week until the week ending Nov. 16, when officials reported 11 new mpox cases, followed by another 13 cases in the two weeks that followed.

Now, the Oregon Health Authority and Dr. Tim Menza, the agency’s primary adviser on the its mpox response, are asking Oregonians to take notice.

“We must continue our work with community partners on outreach efforts that encourage people to watch for symptoms, get…

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