It is not surprising that, after all we suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic, any news of contagious diseases puts us on alert. Recent reports of monkeypox cases have touched precisely this nerve after the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed more than 250 cases, 10 of which were reported in the United States.
However, the organization assured on Monday that “it is nothing like COVID.”
“At the moment, we are not concerned about a global pandemic,” said Dr. Rosamund Lewis, technical lead on monkeypox for the WHO. “We are concerned that individuals may acquire this infection through high-risk exposure if they don’t have the information they need to protect themselves.”
Monkeypox is a zoonotic infectious viral disease, meaning it can affect both humans and other animals. It was first identified in 1958 among laboratory monkeys in Copenhagen, Denmark, and the first human cases were found in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Early symptoms of monkeypox include fever, headache, muscle aches, chills, back pain, and feeling extremely tired. Subsequently, patients develop rashes that form blisters and scabs, most often on the face, hands, feet, genitals, and eyes.
Specialists have explained that this disease can be spread by handling bushmeat, animal bites or scratches, body fluids, contaminated objects, or close contact with an infected person.
The time from exposure to onset of symptoms is approximately 12 days, with symptoms lasting two to four weeks.
In 2003, an outbreak occurred in the United States that was traced to a pet store selling rodents imported from Ghana. This year’s monkeypox outbreak represented the first incidence of widespread community transmission outside Africa and began in the United Kingdom in May 2022.
“The situation is evolving rapidly, and WHO expects that there will be more cases identified as surveillance expands in non-endemic countries,” the WHO warned in an update released Sunday.
According to NBC News, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had identified 10 cases of monkeypox in eight U.S. states as of Friday: California, Colorado, Florida, Massachusetts, New York, Utah, Virginia, and Washington.
“The U.S. has the resources we need to help us respond to monkeypox in this country right now. We’ve been preparing for this type of outbreak for decades,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a Thursday briefing.
Walensky mentioned two vaccines that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration for smallpox and stored in the National Strategic Stockpile. The U.S. has 100 million doses of one vaccine, called ACAM2000. The second, called Jynneos, is FDA-approved for use against monkeypox, and some doses have already been distributed.
Experts remain optimistic that the outbreak can be contained through contact tracing and targeted vaccination, NBC continued.
“We’re working hard to contain the cases that are happening, so they don’t spread onward,” Jennifer McQuiston, deputy director of the CDC’s High Consequence Pathogens and Pathology division, said Thursday.
“We continue to watch what is happening and think about whether wider vaccination recommendations would make sense, but at this time, we only have nine known cases,” McQuiston added. “We have contacts that we’ve identified associated with those cases that would likely most benefit from the vaccine, and so that’s where we’re focusing our energies right now.”