Why was the United States unable to contain the monkeypox?

“The 360” shows you different perspectives on the main stories and debates of the day.

What is up

As cases of monkey pox continue to grow in the United States, public health experts are beginning to question whether it is too late to prevent the infectious disease – which has been endemic in parts of Africa for decades – to earn a place in the United States

As of Friday there were 1,800 confirmed cases of monkeypox in the United States, although experts say a lack of testing capacity means the true spread of the virus is likely much wider. “I think the window to get control of this and contain it is probably closed, and if it’s not closed, it’s certainly starting to close,” Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, he said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” ” Sunday.

While some of the early challenges presented by the monkeypox epidemic echo the same major difficulties as the coronavirus pandemic, specifically the limited availability of tests and vaccines, health officials say comparisons between the two viruses only go so far. .

Most importantly, monkeypox – although it can cause severe flu-like symptoms and debilitating pain – is rarely fatal. It’s not even new. Unlike COVID, which has left scientists scrambling to understand how it spreads and how it can be treated, Monkeypox has been documented before back in 1958. Monkeypox is typically spread through close physical contact, often intimate, rather than through the air. There is also no need to wait months for vaccines to be developed. Smallpox vaccines help to eradicate it once devastating global disease and they have also been effective against monkeypox.

Why there is debate

Experts say that even the worst-case scenario for monkeypox would look nothing like the catastrophic effects of the coronavirus, which has killed more than a million Americans and 6.3 million people worldwide. However, many have expressed frustration that the United States has struggled to contain the current outbreak with so many tools at its disposal.

Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., accused the Biden administration of “failure to learn from the devastating effects” of COVID and other recent infectious diseases when reacting to monkeypox. His criticisms echo those of a number of public health experts who say the United States is repeating the mistakes it made before the pandemic by failing to scale up testing and vaccination capacity fast enough, waiting too long before doing so. a serious and allowing answer. the bureaucratic blocks to stand in the way of more proactive mitigation strategies.

Although anyone can get monkeypox, most cases of the current outbreak have been detected in men who have sex with men, a factor that some believe may have contributed to a lack of urgency perceived around the virus. “Would monkeypox get a stronger response if it didn’t primarily affect queer people?” San Francisco Supervisor Rafael Mandelman he said in a speech last week. There is also concern that the prominence of infections in gay men may lead members of other groups to lower their guard, creating more room for the virus to spread throughout the wider population.

What’s next

Federal and state health officials are working to expand availability of tests and vaccines, but it remains to be seen whether that effort can happen fast enough to prevent monkeypox from spreading to a point where it can never be fully contained. If that happens, Gottlieb said, monkeypox it can become a fact of life long term as a variety of other infectious diseases.


The United States has been flying blind without being able to measure how widespread the virus is

“Monkeypox is unlikely to affect as many Americans as Covid-19. However, an important lesson from the last decade of the epidemics of Covid-19, Ebola and Zika is that unchecked transmission means that a virus will not remain contained to any subgroup of the population and will lead to unpredictable health complications”. – Jay Varma, New York Times

As with COVID, the global response has been scattered and defeated

“We must all refuse to walk blindly, allowing the present to become a prologue to a greater catastrophe. Global health officials must advocate and enact a unified and coherent approach to fight the Monkeypox pandemic before it reaching covid-19 proportions. If we act, guided by the lessons of the past two years, we can avoid the mistakes that cost the world millions of lives. – Eric Feigl-Ding, Kavita Patel and Yaneer Bar-Yam , Washington Post

The right strategies are available, but managers are not willing to use them

“Government officials around the world have a responsibility to learn from the mistakes of the COVID pandemic and not to repeat them. The transcript of the last 2.5 years is right in front of them. They are acting in defense of public health, or will they once again indulge in their political acrobatics and be indifferent to human suffering? And will we, as a global population, let our governments treat us this way? – Muhammad Jawad Noon, Scientific American

The United States will fail time after time until it builds a sustainable public health system

“The United States is at a crossroads. … It can mount an effective response to monkeypox and provide communities across the country with the infrastructure needed to promote health care for all. Or it can continue to play catchup in crisis after crisis and let the common infections continue to rage in between”. – David C. Harvey, Stat

Allowing the virus to spread abroad made its arrival in the United States inevitable

“Rich countries have ignored endemic smallpox in West and Central Africa for too long, despite having effective vaccines, which should be distributed equitably to at-risk populations around the world. The crucial point is that all these efforts should happening now. We must stop underreacting to the world’s latest infectious disease threat.” – Monica Gandhi, The Atlantic

Monkeypox is still manageable with the right strategies

“With any emerging pathogen, there is always a narrow window of opportunity to prevent small clusters of infections from spreading more widely. The United States has not done this for past epidemics, including HIV and COVID-19. Monkeypox should be a relatively easier virus to control, but only if the United States takes the necessary steps now.” – Shan Soe-Lin and Robert Hecht, Boston Globe

The public’s willingness to respond to a new virus has eroded after years of fighting COVID

“Some will sometimes roll their eyes and skepticism will be high, higher than it was in the past when we talked about infectious diseases, but these are no reasons not to act.” – Michael Wilkes, KCRW

Monkeypox is a harbinger of much more lethal epidemics to come

“The biggest concern for Americans is not the disease: it’s that our response to it shows how little we’ve learned from COVID-19, and how much remains to be done to limit the risks from future pandemics.” – Richard Danzig and James Lawler, Bloomberg

Many of the same logistical problems that plagued the COVID response have resurfaced

“The existence of a vaccine is only the beginning; rolling out, deciding who needs it and where is its own complicated narrative. That work must begin now, to stay in front of a fire that is still growing and to maintain trust in vaccines and in public health in general. The stakes are high.” – Melody Schreiber, The New Republic

Conceiving monkeypox as a gay disease poses a danger to everyone

“The more I read and hear about monkey pox, the more I get a little annoyed at how the media has anointed men who have sex with men as the biggest threat to our survival from monkey pox” . – John Casey, The Lawyer

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Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photo: Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images, Getty Images

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