Monkeypox is Not Yet a Clear and Present Danger…But
Even though monkeypox is unlikely to pose a significant health danger to most Americans, the hazard level may alter as the virus spreads and affects more people.
The World Health Organization (WHO) issued a formal announcement on July 23, 2022, stating that the current outbreak of monkeypox constitutes a global health emergency of international concern. When the announcement was made, more than 16,000 cases were reported from 74 different countries.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a global emergency for the second time in just the past two years. This time, the virus responsible for the outbreak is monkeypox, which has spread to dozens of countries in just a few short weeks and infected tens of thousands of people.
The declaration made by the WHO indicates that there is a threat to public health and calls for a concerted response on a global scale. The designation may persuade member countries to devote significant resources to the containment of an outbreak, bring additional funding to the response effort, and encourage countries to share vaccines, treatments, and other essential resources to contain the outbreak.
It was up to the head of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom, to make the final decision because the organization's experts could not decide whether or not the highest level of caution was warranted.
In the past, outbreaks have only involved a small number of infected people, and there was very little or no transmission from one person to another. Because of this, there had been a previous restriction on the spread. In addition, contrary to SARS-CoV-2, monkeypox cannot be transmitted through the air. Because the smallpox vaccine is effective against the virus, the authorities already have many options available to them in case the concerns continue to grow.
In the United States, the number of confirmed cases of monkeypox has increased to approximately 2,900 two months after the first case was discovered. However, specifics regarding those cases and other epidemiological data aren't spreading nearly as quickly as the virus itself, resulting in gaps in the response.
The United States government has not declared a monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency yet. In a statement made on Saturday, Xavier Becerra, secretary of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, stated that the United States is "determined to accelerate our response in the days ahead."
Like its close relative to the smallpox virus, the monkeypox virus is a pathogen that belongs to the orthopoxvirus family. It is spread through contaminated bodily fluids or close contact with infected humans or animals. It can cause mild to severe illness and death in some cases.
People can catch monkeypox from one another if they encounter someone who already has the rash caused by monkeypox. This could involve mouth-to-mouth contact, face-to-face contact, skin-to-skin contact, or even mouth-to-skin contact. According to the World Health Organization, the virus can be passed from one person to another through droplets or short-range aerosols if the person has ulcers or sores in their mouth (WHO).
Although researchers still have a lot to learn about the most recent outbreaks, people are considered infectious until all their lesions have become crusted.
According to Dr. Boghuma Titanji, a physician specializing in infectious diseases at Emory University in Atlanta, the World Health Organization's declaration is "better late than never."
Dr. James Lawler, also the co-director of the Global Center for Health Security at the University of Nebraska, estimated that it could take a year or more to bring the outbreak under control. By that time, the virus will almost certainly have infected hundreds of thousands of people and have established a long-term foothold in some countries.
Dr. Lawler lamented that "we've now unfortunately really missed the boat" in terms of having the ability to put a lid on the outbreak earlier. "From this point forward, it will be an uphill battle to contain and control the spread."
Suppose the outbreak is allowed to continue for an extended period of time. In that case, there is a greater possibility that the virus will spread from infected people to animal populations, where it may remain dormant but occasionally cause new infections in people. This is one of the ways in which a disease can spread throughout a region and eventually become endemic there.
The fact that many of the infected people in these countries report having no known source of infection suggests that the disease is spreading throughout the community without anyone noticing.
Even though the virus is most likely to spread from person to person through close contact, researchers are still trying to determine the other possible modes of transmission in this outbreak. In addition, several industry professionals said during interviews that they disagreed with the rationale.
A committee of the World Health Organization that was established in early 2020 to investigate the outbreak of the coronavirus also held two meetings. However, the committee didn't decide that the spread of the virus constituted a public health emergency until its second meeting, which took place on January 30.
At the time, committee members proposed to the World Health Organization (WHO) that they investigate the possibility of establishing "an intermediate level of alert" for outbreaks of moderate concern. Because there have been more outbreaks recently, the organization might require such a system.
More opportunities for infectious diseases to spread from animals to humans are being created due to deforestation, globalization, and climate change. A newly discovered virus has the potential to rapidly cross national boundaries and become a threat on a global scale.
However, most public health authorities are only equipped to deal with chronic diseases or relatively minor outbreaks.
According to Tom Inglesby, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, the devastation caused by the COVID pandemic and the surge in monkeypox incidence should serve as a warning to governments that they should be prepared for new epidemics without notice.
What signs and symptoms do you have if you have monkeypox?
After an infection has been present for about a week or two, symptoms such as fever, headaches, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, and exhaustion will begin to manifest themselves. A rash may appear a few days later, typically on or around the face. This rash may develop into blistery pustules that scab before healing in the following weeks. Although the symptoms of monkeypox are in many ways comparable to those of smallpox, the disease is fortunately considered to be self-limiting, making it significantly less severe.
Monkeypox doesn’t seem like such a big deal compared to the horrors of smallpox, which, at its worst, killed nearly one out of every three infected people. However, there is one thing that we have taken away from the COVID-19 pandemic. In that case, it is that when it comes to potentially lethal viruses, it is better to err on the side of caution.
We are very fortunate that the United States has vaccines against monkeypox that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and that the country is working hard to increase production and distribute more doses of these vaccines to reduce the number of new cases and the severity of the disease (though access to both vaccines and the antiviral drug tecovirimat remains a challenge).
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the nation's testing capacity has increased from the initial 6,000 specimens a week at the outbreak's start to 80,000 specimens a week. This increase comes from at least five commercial laboratory companies coming on board so far to handle samples of monkeypox.
Although it is not likely that monkeypox will pose a significant health threat to the general population of the United States at this time, the current level of transmission, coupled with a patchwork of response capabilities, is the most concerning aspect of the situation. As the virus spreads to more locations and infects more people, the severity of the threat may shift.
There is a narrow window of opportunity to stop local outbreaks before they spread to the point where they become pandemic. That window for containing monkeypox in the United States is quickly closing, and some public health experts have already said that the window has likely already shut and that the monkeypox virus is here to stay.
Monkeypox outbreak a global health emergency: WHO