Over 560 monkeypox cases have now been confirmed in at least 25 countries outside of Africa!
Find out if the monkeypox outbreak could become a new pandemic we have to worry about!
Over 560 Monkeypox Cases Confirmed In 25 Countries!
People are now worried about the rapid spread of monkeypox globally. although the WHO has said that it is unlikely to become a pandemic like COVID-19.
Discovered in 1958, the first human infection was only reported in 1970, and there were only like 400 cases from 1970 to 1986.
Monkeypox became more common over time, with 2000 cases per year reported between 2011 and 2014, and several outbreaks in the US (2003 and 2021), UK (2018 and 2021), and Singapore (2019)..
However, nothing has come close to the 2022 monkeypox outbreak which has now affected at least 25 countries outside of Africa, with over 560 cases!
Monkeypox Cases May Increase, But Unlikely To Become Pandemic
On 30 May 2022, the World Health Organisation’s top monkeypox expert, Dr. Rosamund Lewis, gave a public briefing on the 2022 monkeypox outbreak.
Here is a summary of the key points Dr. Lewis shared in that public session :
- She does not expect the monkeypox outbreak to turn into another pandemic like COVID-19.
- There are still many unknowns about this outbreak, including how exactly it is spreading.
- The suspension of mass smallpox immunisation decades ago may have resulted in increased transmission.
- Vast majority of current cases seen in gay, bisexual or men who have sex with men.
- There is a higher proportion of people with fewer visible lesions that are more concentrated in the genital region, and sometimes nearly impossible to see. This is a danger because they are infectious even though their lesions are not visible.
- There is a window of opportunity to shut down the outbreak so it does not become endemic in new areas.
Fortunately, the 2022 monkeypox outbreak appears to be of the less virulent West African strain, because there is no proven treatment.
The smallpox vaccine can offer up to 85% protection against monkeypox, and certain antiviral treatments can be attempted.
But otherwise – hospitals can only offer supportive treatment as the patient isolates for 2-4 weeks until the disease resolves.
Read more : What You Must Know About Monkeypox!
Monkeypox primarily spreads through close contact, but can spread through respiratory droplets. However, it is far less contagious and is not airborne like COVID-19.
Infected people are also not considered contagious until they start showing symptoms, which limits transmission. This is unlike COVID-19 which is often spread by people who are asymptomatic.
The best way to describe its ability to infect people would be to understand its R0 (Reproduction Number, pronounced as R naught) – how many people an infected person is expected to pass the disease along to.
The ancestral COVID-19 virus has an R0 of between 2 to 3, which increased to 8 with the Omicron variant. That’s really contagious – every infected person will (on average) transmit the virus to 8 other people.
On the other hand, past outbreaks of monkeypox had an R0 of less than one. That means even though there may be clusters of several cases, even outbreaks, the cases die out on their own.
|Measles||12 to 18|
|Smallpox||5 to 7|
|Ancestral COVID-19||2 to 3|
|H1N1 (2009)||1.5 to 2.5|
Monkeypox fortunately does not spread very efficiently between humans. Generally, you need to have skin-to-skin contact with an infected person, or come into contact with his/her bodily fluids, to get infected.
The people most at risk would be close contacts of the infected person, like family members or healthcare workers taking care of them.
Transmission is really happening from close physical contact, skin-to-skin contact. It’s quite different from COVID in that sense.
– Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO Infectious Disease Epidemiologist
It’s not as highly transmissible as something like smallpox, or measles, or certainly not Covid. It does not spread easily from person to person, the risk to the general public is low.
– Anne Rimoin, infectious disease epidemiologist at University of California.
That is why it is very unlikely to become a pandemic, although if it spreads to susceptible rodent populations, it could become endemic in those areas.
There is also the fact that the monkeypox is so closely related to the smallpox virus, the smallpox vaccine offers 85% protection against monkeypox infections.
In fact, one smallpox vaccine – JYNNEOS – was approved in the United States to serve as protection against monkeypox. Even though there is no public access to this vaccine, that can quickly change.
Several countries, including the United States, have strategic reserves of smallpox vaccines, which can be deployed in a monkeypox outbreak.
Countries have also started purchasing smallpox vaccines :
- 19 May 2022 : Spain’s Ministry of Health announced that it was in the process of purchasing thousands of doses of smallpox vaccines
- 24 May 2022 : CDC announced that the US is in the process of releasing some JYNNEOS smallpox vaccine doses for people who are “high risk”.
- 25 May 2022 : the German government announced that it was buying 40,000 doses of the JYNNEOS smallpox vaccine from Bavarian Nordic.
- 26 May 2022 : the UK Health Security Agency announced that it purchased 20,000 doses of the JYNNEOS smallpox vaccine from Bavarian Nordic.
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Dr. Adrian Wong has been writing about tech and science since 1997, even publishing a book with Prentice Hall called Breaking Through The BIOS Barrier (ISBN 978-0131455368) while in medical school.
He continues to devote countless hours every day writing about tech, medicine and science, in his pursuit of facts in a post-truth world.
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