FOR THE WEEK OF AUG. 08, 2022
Monkeypox cases rise in U.S. and elsewhere, though this virus doesn't bring Covid-like fears
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In year three of Covid, another virus is gaining wider attention. The federal government now classifies monkeypox as a national health emergency, with the number of U.S. cases passing 7,000 late last week. The situation is far less dire than when the coronavirus pandemic began because monkeypox generally spreads through close personal contact rather than through the air. Still, the World Health Organization also elevated its level of concern in July.
The smallpox-related disease, which normally occurs mostly in central and western Africa, spreads from animals infected with a monkeypox virus. Symptoms, which last two to four weeks, include fever, muscle pain, swollen lymph nodes and a blistering rash. Estimates of the risk of death vary from 1% to 10%, though few fatalities have been recorded in the last five years. The global case count stands at about 26,000. The average U.S. monkeypox patient is around 35 years old and male, but people of all ages can be infected. The government has recorded at least five cases in children.
Last week's declaration by the Biden administration lets the government offer contracts for treatments and supplies, though it doesn’t immediately address a shortage of specialized vaccines. "We will continue to look at ways to quickly get more vaccines out to populations across the country, but that's just one part of our strategy," White House spokesperson Chris Meagher said last Friday. Military health workers and other personnel may be assigned to help manage the emergency, as they did for Covid in 2020-21. Separately, scientists are trying to figure out whether recent mutations to the virus are helping it spread in ways they don't yet fully understand.
Cabinet member says: "We urge every American to take this virus seriously and to take responsibility to help us tackle this virus." -- Xavier Becerra, secretary of health and human services
Drug exec says: "We don't have the urgency we had when Covid, because . . . there is already a [smallpox] vaccine on the market. . . . I'm not aware of any scientists that believe it can get to a pandemic like Covid." -- Stéphane Bancel, Moderna chief executive
World Health Organization says: "We have an outbreak that has spread around the world rapidly through new modes of transmission about which we understand too little." – Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general
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