Monkeypox outbreak is still containable, according to the WHO, but no quarantines have been recommended yet.
Monkeypox, despite the arguably silly name, is a known virus with serious but not generally life-threatening symptoms. A close relative of smallpox, it causes flu-like symptoms and skin lesions, and it’s usually found in Africa. Despite its name, it’s most often spread by rats and other small mammals.
So far, the outbreak is small – over 300 cases being tracked in the U.S., the U.K., Canada, and the E.U. But public anxiety about another viral outbreak is why so much attention is being paid to it. A single suspected case in California yesterday made national news, and one in Washington on Monday. All suspected and confirmed cases in the U.S. are in men who have recently traveled abroad, and no deaths or serious cases have yet been reported.
Historically, the American populace was immune to monkeypox due to the smallpox vaccine, but that hasn’t been used on the majority in over fifty years now, leading to vulnerabilities. There is also a vaccine specifically for monkeypox, approved by the FDA in 2019. Between the two, the U.S. has enough vaccine to prevent a COVID-like outbreak. We’ve done it before, too; 71 cases in six states in the summer of 2003 lead to 30 individuals being vaccinated and an exotic animal vendor being shut down – his rats had brought the disease into the country and spread it to pet prairie dogs, which were then sold to families and pet shops.
According to the CDC, monkeypox can theoretically be spread by large droplet transmission, as well as skin-to-skin contact, but during the 2003 outbreak, all cases of transmission were tracked to direct contact with infected animals, with no indication of community transmission. Just in case, know that we have 100 million doses stockpiled of the two vaccines to prevent it, enough to prevent it from spreading even if it were to become more virulent somehow.