The Monkeypox outbreak has been confirmed in at least 20 countries outside of Africa!
Find out what Monkeypox is all about, and whether it is a new pandemic we have to worry about!
Monkeypox Outbreak : Is It A Pandemic Risk?
People are now worried about the rapid spread of monkeypox globally.
Discovered in 1958, the first human infection was only reported in 1970, and there were only like 400 cases from 1970 to 1986.
However, it became more common over time, with 2000 cases per year reported between 2011 and 2014.
There were also several outbreaks in the US (2003 and 2021), UK (2018 and 2021), and Singapore (2019), but nothing matched the latest 2022 outbreak.
As of 25 May 2022, there were 230 confirmed cases in at least 20 countries outside of Africa, and suspected cases in two other countries.
Monkeypox Outbreak : More Deadly, Unlikely To Cause A Pandemic
Monkeypox is more deadly than COVID-19, with mortality as high as 10% depending on the strain :
- West African strain : 1% to 3%
- Central African strain : 10%
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, even though it is really abnormal for so many outbreaks to occur simultaneously.
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.
We have already worked to secure sufficient supply of effective treatments and vaccines to prevent those exposed from contracting monkeypox and treating people who’ve been affected.
– Dr. Raj Panjabi, White House Pandemic Office.
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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.
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