CDC inquiry sought on HIV outbreak in WVa's largest county

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FILE - In this Tuesday, March 9, 2021 file photo, Solutions Oriented Addiction Response organizer Brooke Parker displays an HIV testing kit in Charleston, W.Va. The nonprofit group operates health fairs for residents, including syringe exchanges and HIV testing. On Monday, April 5, 2021, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, R-W.Va., submitted a congressional inquiry with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding an HIV outbreak in West Virginia's largest county, two months after a CDC official warned that Kanawha county's outbreak was the most concerning in the United States. (AP Photo/John Raby)

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin on Monday submitted a congressional inquiry with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding an HIV outbreak in West Virginia's largest county.

The West Virginia Democrat asked for the inquiry on behalf of the Kanawha County Commission two months after a CDC official warned that the county's outbreak was “ the most concerning in the United States.”

Commission President Kent Carper said in a statement that the outbreak "is an important public health issue and is deserving of our full understanding.”

In a letter to Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC director, Manchin asked that the CDC review the commission's concerns and reply by Friday.

Later Monday, Manchin released a letter from the CDC saying it was eager to meet with public health officials. It said Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of the CDC’s National Center for HIV-AIDS, would be included in the meeting.

In early February, Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, the CDC’s chief of HIV prevention, gave a presentation at a meeting of a Kanawha County HIV task force.

“It is possible the current case count represents the tip of the iceberg,” Daskalakis said. “There are likely many more undiagnosed cases in the community. We are concerned that transmission is ongoing and that the number of people with HIV will continue to increase unless urgent action is taken.”

The commission’s letter to Manchin asked whether the CDC has completed an official investigation into the county’s HIV surge. The letter said the commission is concerned that the statements referring to the outbreak as the most concerning in the nation “are being made without factual and empirical evidence.”