Is monkeypox becoming Covid-19-like pandemic? Top US health expert explains

Top US health expert Dr Faheem Younus said it is unlikely that monkeypox would cause a Covid-19-like pandemic in the world.
An image created during an investigation into an outbreak of monkeypox, which took place in Congo from 1996 to 1997.(REUTERS)
An image created during an investigation into an outbreak of monkeypox, which took place in Congo from 1996 to 1997.(REUTERS)
Updated on May 24, 2022 11:23 PM IST
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By | Written by Aniruddha Dhar, New Delhi

Even as the United States is preparing to give monkeypox vaccines to close contacts of people infected and to deploy treatments, a top US health expert said it is unlikely that monkeypox would cause a Covid-19-like pandemic in the world.

Vice-president and chief quality officer at the University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health Dr Faheem Younus said while monkeypox cases are concerning but the risk of this becoming a Covid-like pandemic is zero per cent. He added that the monkeypox virus is not novel unlike SARS-CoV-2.

On Monday, the US reported five new cases either confirmed or probable and the number likely to rise. There is one confirmed US infection so far, in Massachusetts, and four other cases of people with orthopoxviruses -- the family that monkeypox belongs to, senior officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said at a press briefing.

Younus, however, explained why monkeypox has a “zero per cent” risk of becoming a Covid-like pandemic.

“Why? This virus: - is NOT novel… - is typically not deadly - is less contagious than COVID - has been around for 5 decades - is prevented by smallpox vaccine,” he tweeted.

Jennifer McQuiston, deputy director of the division of high consequence pathogens and pathology at CDC headquarters, said monkeypox has symptoms similar to smallpox but is far less severe, with most people recovering within weeks.

Also Read | Monkeypox: How the rash progresses, for how long it lasts; know from expert

"Right now we are hoping to maximize vaccine distribution to those that we know would benefit from it," said McQuiston.

The World Health Organization (WHO) too said the outbreak is unusual but is still containable.

“It’s not something we’ve seen over the last few years,” said Sylvie Briand, director of the WHO’s epidemic and pandemic preparedness and prevention department on Tuesday. She said it’s still containable and that countries can cut the chain of transmission by raising awareness and getting people to recognise the symptoms early.

The WHO) said there have been 131 confirmed monkeypox cases and 106 further suspected cases since the first was reported on May 7 outside the countries where it usually spreads.

Meanwhile, Moderna Inc is testing potential vaccines against monkeypox in pre-clinical trials as the disease spreads in the United States and Europe.

(With inputs from agencies)

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