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Additional cases of monkeypox are likely to increase in the United States. Still, there is virtually no possibility of the virus causing a pandemic similar to COVID-19, an infectious diseases expert told Reuters on Friday (May 20).
The first case of monkeypox this year in the United States was confirmed on Wednesday (May 18) by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
The infected man had recently traveled to Canada.
"There's a danger of viewing every further infectious disease outbreak through the lens of COVID 19," Dr. Amesh Adalja, a Senior Scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and an expert on infectious diseases and emergency medicine, said.
"And you have to draw distinctions between a virus like SARS-CoV-2 and a virus like monkeypox, which spread in a totally different way from totally different viral families," he added.
Monkeypox, which mainly occurs in west and central Africa, is a rare viral infection similar to human smallpox, though milder. It was first recorded in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the 1970s.
The number of cases in West Africa has increased in the last decade.
Symptoms include fever, headaches and skin rashes, often starting on the face and spreading to the rest of the body.
It is unusual that monkeypox is now spreading through social networks, often through sexual contact rather than through animal contact, Adalja pointed out.
But monkeypox is far less transmissible than COVID-19, he said.
"While there may be some synergies in the public health actions that need to be taken like contact tracing, they're very different responses, very different viruses and very different threat levels," he said.
"I do not think monkeypox has any ability to cause a pandemic because it is an inefficient transmitter, because it is not contagious during the incubation period, because we have the smallpox vaccine that is a tried-and-true countermeasure to stop these outbreaks."
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said its labs confirmed the Massachusetts infection to be monkeypox on Wednesday afternoon.
The state agency said it was working with CDC and relevant local boards of health to carry out contact tracing, adding that "the case poses no risk to the public, and the individual is hospitalized and in good condition."
While there is no danger of a monkeypox pandemic, COVID-19 has primed healthcare providers to handle infectious disease outbreak, Dr. Adalja said.
"Because of COVID 19, hospitals are on high alert to deal with infectious disease and to become much more adept," he said.
"We routinely place people into airborne isolation, we routinely use a lot of personal protective equipment, we routinely run down febrile illnesses or fever illnesses in order to figure out what's going on… So I do think that hospitals around the United States would be able to handle this."
The CDC has said no monkeypox cases had previously been identified in the United States this year.
Texas and Maryland each reported a case in 2021 in people with recent travel to Nigeria.
(Production: Kevin Fogarty; Ashraf Fahim)
( Original Title: Monkeypox unlikely to cause pandemic, outbreak will be contained - expert )
( Caption: 9587WD-HEALTH-MONKEYPOX_USA_EXPERT_O_ )
PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA, UNITED STATES (MAY 20, 2022) (REUTERS)
(SOUNDBITE) (English) SENIOR SCHOLAR AT THE JOHNS HOPKINS CENTER FOR HEALTH SECURITY, INFECTIOUS DISEASES AND EMERGENCY CARE EXPERT, DR. AMESH ADALJA, SAYING:
"There's a danger of viewing every further infectious disease outbreak through the lens of COVID 19. And you have to draw distinctions between a virus like SARS-CoV-2 and a virus like monkeypox, which spread in a totally different way from totally different viral families. Monkeypox is a virus for which we have medical countermeasures, for which we've dealt with outbreaks in the past. It's not a novel pathogen, and it doesn't spread efficiently like SARS-CoV-2. So there is a danger of trying to take everything that we knew about COVID 19 and then apply it to Monkeypox. You can't do that. These are very disparate, disparate infections. And while there may be some synergies in the public health actions that need to be taken like contact tracing, they're very different responses, very different viruses and very different threat levels. I do not think monkeypox has any ability to cause a pandemic because it is an inefficient transmitter because it is not contagious during the incubation period because we have the smallpox vaccine that is a tried-and-true countermeasure to stop these outbreaks."
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