There is serious concern that the US and other countries are not doing enough to prevent monkeypox from becoming a large-scale global outbreak, according to an infectious disease epidemiologist.
Over the weekend, the World Health Organization activated its highest alert level for the virus, declaring monkeypox a public health emergency of international concern.
The rare designation means that the WHO now considers the outbreak a significant enough threat to global health that a coordinated international response is needed to prevent the virus from becoming a pandemic.
“This is a unique outbreak that we know of this virus, but it is causing a very large outbreak in many countries around the world. In fact, if we look at the number of cases, the United States is behind Spain in the number of cases,” said Dr. Syra Madad, New York City. Director of Special Pathogens Program at Health + Hospitals, to CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Monday.
“It is not an outbreak to be taken lightly. The really big concern is that it becomes an established virus in the United States, as well as in other countries where this virus is not endemic,” he added.
Madad said it is “really unacceptable” that, especially in light of the Covid pandemic, countries are struggling to contain the spread of the monkey.
“With all the lessons learned from Covid-19, we shouldn’t be dealing with an outbreak of this scale and we’re not doing enough to prevent this from becoming endemic,” he added.
While the WHO statement does not impose obligations on national governments, it serves as an urgent call to action.
Virus cases are increasing
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the virus can spread through respiratory droplets, after prolonged face-to-face interaction or intimate physical contact. The virus can be spread by contact with bodily fluids, skin lesions, and contaminated items such as bedding and clothing.
More than 16,000 cases of monkeypox have been reported in more than 70 countries this year, with the number of confirmed infections rising by 77% from late June to early July, according to WHO data.
Madad said that while men who have sex with men are currently at the highest risk of infection, the virus is beginning to spread to a wider community.
“For example, in the United States, two children contracted monkeypox through household transmission from someone with a monkey. We know that these cases may begin to increase over time as more transmission occurs in the community,” he said.
On Monday, the WHO warned against complacency in containing the outbreak, saying there is no guarantee that the virus will continue to spread in specific communities.
Although cases so far have been mainly concentrated in gay and bisexual communities, the UN health agency said there was little evidence to suggest the disease would be limited to those groups.
On the contrary, their early detection could be a predictor of a wider outbreak.
US vaccine challenges
Madad said the best way to cut chains of transmission is to vaccinate people who are at risk and may be exposed to monkeypox. However, he noted that access to vaccines is a problem, especially in the US
On Friday, a senior White House official said President Joe Biden is considering declaring a public health emergency in response to the growing monkeypox outbreak. Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House’s co-ordinator of the Covid response, said the administration is considering how a public health emergency declaration could bolster the U.S.’s response to the outbreak.
The US has so far reported more than 2,500 cases of monkeypox in 44 states, including Washington, DC and Puerto Rico, according to the CDC.
“Vaccines continue to be released to provinces, cities and states. By the end of this year, we’ll have about 1.6 million by the end of 2023 or mid-2023 — we’ll have millions of doses,” Madad said.
“But the problem here is that not enough is happening,” he added, as demand is currently outstripping supply. “We really have to deal with this epidemic.”
— CNBC’s Spencer Kimball contributed to the report.
Epidemiologists say countries are not doing enough to contain monkeypox
Source link Epidemiologists say countries are not doing enough to contain monkeypox