You’ve likely seen headlines regarding the spread of monkeypox: a mild illness caused by a virus within the same family as smallpox. But while the circumstances may sound familiar — in the sense that there’s an “outbreak” that’s made its way to the U.S. — health experts are encouraging Americans not to panic: This is not another coronavirus pandemic.
For starters, scientists are already knowledgeable on the virus. ”Monkeypox is not a new or an unknown disease. “CDC has been preparing for monkeypox for decades,” Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Administrator of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, said in a news briefing. “We have the resources we need right now to respond, and we know how to respond in this outbreak.”
Furthermore, an FDA-approved vaccine already exists: Jynneos, a smallpox vaccine developed in 2019, has been found to be 85 percent effective in preventing monkeypox infection. And the CDC is already taking action, working to provide high-risk individuals with doses of the vaccine, of which the U.S. currently has 1,000 doses. The U.S. also has a stockpile of more than 100 million doses of ACAM2000, another smallpox vaccine, which does work but could cause more side effects than Jynneos.
“Right now we are hoping to maximize vaccine distribution to those that we know would benefit from it —those are people who’ve had contact with known monkeypox patients, health care workers, very close personal contacts, and those in particular who might be at high risk for severe disease,” said Captain Jennifer McQuiston, deputy director of the CDC’s High Consequence Pathogens and Pathology Division. McQuiston also said that the U.S. plans to “ramp up” Jynneos supply as cases come up.
Finally, it’s worth noting that monkeypox is generally a very mild infection, from which thousands of individuals recover from every year. “Most of the cases that have come to our attention have been mild and self-limited,” McQuiston continnued, adding that antivirals are usually not necessary. In fact, despite western and central Africa’s insufficient access to healthcare, infections in the region historically had more than a 90 percent survival rate, per the LA Times.
So why are people so intrigued by the outbreak, if it’s not particularly dangerous? They simply don’t understand how or why it’s spreading, as patients hadn’t traveled to areas with monkeypox and/or interacted with infected animals.
At the time of writing, there are nine reported cases in the U.S. and 320 worldwide. Still, experts encourage the public not to panic. “We think that if we put in place the right measures now we probably can contain this easily,” Sylvie Briand, World Health Organization (WHO) director for Global Infectious Hazard Preparedness, told the United Nations.
“In the last couple of years, everybody’s become a virologist,” Paula Cannon, a (real) virologist at USC’s Keck School of Medicine, concurred via LA Times. “We don’t have to get crazy scared.”
Before you go, check out our favorite all-natural cough and cold remedies for kids:
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