Saturday, August 6, 2022

Biden Administration declares monkeypox a public health emergency

I began the month by lamenting that I didn't take monkeypox seriously enough.
As I wrote in June, "it looks like I may have been too sanguine about monkeypox." I didn't think it would get this bad. Now I expect it will get worse.
It has. ABC News reported US declares monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency Thursday night.

Amid growing calls from health officials, the Biden administration declared that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will take a series of actions to combat the monkeypox outbreak.
The number of cases has continued to increase over the past two days, as the CDC website shows 7,510 reported cases in the U.S. as I type this. As the CDC Director said, cases will continue to go up before they start going down.

CNBC Television uploaded two videos that I'm sharing, beginning with Monkeypox is now a national public health emergency.

CNBC's Shomari Stone joins Shep Smith to report on the spread of monkeypox and government efforts to administer the vaccine.
CNBC concentrated on the short supply of the vaccine in this segment. At least there were already vaccines to administer, as monkeypox has been known for decades, unlike COVID-19, which was completely novel and much more deadly.

The Shepard Smith segment mentioned Scott Gottlieb, who called the potential establishment of monkeypox in the U.S. a major public health failure. CNBC interviewed him earlier in Monkeypox will become a low-level infection but can be dangerous, says Dr. Scott Gottlieb.

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former FDA commissioner and CNBC contributor, joins CNBC's 'Squawk Box' to discuss the outbreak in monkeypox cases after the U.S. declared the virus a public health emergency.
Monkeypox is nowhere near as deadly as COVID-19, but it deserves to be taken seriously as a health threat.

All the above videos point out that the current outbreak acts like a sexually transmitted disease, but it's not really one, and it can affect anyone. Another point that Gottlieb made in passing was that monkeypox is a relative of smallpox, which I think is perversely good news. The CDC page on vaccinations states "Because Monkeypox virus is closely related to the virus that causes smallpox, the smallpox vaccine can protect people from getting monkeypox. Past data from Africa suggests that the smallpox vaccine is at least 85% effective in preventing monkeypox." Older Americans like me who have been vaccinated against smallpox are actually in better shape than younger people to avoid becoming ill from monkeypox. I'll take that, as it's the reverse of the usual relationship between age and morbidity and mortality from infectious diseases.

One aspect of monkeypox that the first three videos generally ignored is that monkeypox is a zoonotic disease, one that originally passed from non-human animals to people. The Wall Street Journal tackled that head on in Why Monkeypox Is a Global Health Threat, which the paper uploaded to its YouTube account the day before the Biden Administration declared the disease a health emergency. Perfect timing!

What smallpox is to humans — monkeypox is to animals. So what happens when a human is infected with an animal disease? WSJ explains the symptoms, reactions and treatment of a monkeypox infection.
Despite the name, monkeypox mostly infects rodents, which I find concerning because it can get into native rodent populations that could become reservoirs for the virus. The SciShow video I embedded in May mentioned that the previous outbreak in the U.S. resulted from contact with infected prairie dogs. It could have been worse; I know of cases of bubonic plague transmitted from prairie dogs to humans. Yikes!

That was the post about monkeypox I planned to write until I watched Colbert's monologue yesterday. Stay tuned for this year's post about Saturday Night Live's Emmy nominations for the Sunday entertainment feature.

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