The monkeypox virus might become the next sexually transmitted disease. However, some health officials believe the virus may be contained before that happens. Unfortunately, health experts disagree on the path of the virus. Some fear it’s becoming so widespread that it is on the verge of becoming an STD. For now, the country waits to see how testing and vaccines can prevent the outbreak.
The international outbreak popped up two months ago, and there are 2,400 cases in the U.S. Currently, health officials aren’t aware of how quickly the virus spreads because they only have limited data from people diagnosed. In addition, they’re not sure how many infected people could unknowingly be spreading the monkeypox virus. Health officials also don’t know how well the vaccines or treatments work. One issue is Federal health officials do not have the authority to collect and connect data on who has been infected and who has been vaccinated. Predictions about how big the U.S. outbreak will get vary. Some believe 13,000 cases, and others believe the cases will rise ten times. The CDC is hopeful that the monkeypox virus can be contained.
The Origins of the Monkeypox Virus
Monkeypox is commonly found in Africa. People have been infected through bites from rodents or small animals, but it doesn’t usually spread easily among people. Shockingly this year, more than 15,000 cases have been reported in countries that historically don’t encounter the disease. In the U.S., most infections have happened in men who have had sex with other men, but anyone can catch the virus.
Since it is so rare in the U.S., many infected men and even medical professionals might have attributed their rashes to some other illness. And contact tracing wasn’t always practical. Especially since a lot of the infected didn’t know the names of all the people they had sex with. The CDC believes that 1.5 million U.S. men are at high risk for the infection.
The monkeypox virus spreads mainly through skin-to-skin contact or linens used by someone infected. As of now, it has moved like an STD, but officials are keeping an eye out for other ways it could spread.
Symptoms of monkeypox include the following:
- body aches
- bumps on parts of the body
So far, the illness has been relatively mild, and no one in the U.S. has died. But people are contagious for weeks, and the lesions are extremely painful. Officials believed they could control the outbreak easily since the bumps would’ve made the infection easy to identify. And as we see now, it didn’t turn out that way.
Luckily, the U.S. government already has a vaccine on hand. The two-dose regimen called Jynneos was licensed in the U.S. in 2019 and recommended last year as a tool against monkeypox. When the virus was first identified in May, U.S. officials only had about 2,000 doses available. Last month more doses became available, and the CDC offered shots to those who recognized they could be infected.
Demand has exceeded supply, with clinics in some cities rapidly running out of vaccine doses and health officials across the country saying they don’t have enough. That will soon change. As many as 780,000 doses will become available as early as next week. Furthermore, testing has also expanded. More than 70,000 people can test each week. The government has embarked on a campaign to educate doctors, gays, and bisexual men about the disease.