With community transmission taking a foothold in the U.S., public health agencies must do more to stamp out the virus, effectively communicate the increasing risk to the MSM community and better inform the public.
Cases of monkeypox have toppled in the last 7 weeks to over to 3,500 cases worldwide in 44 countries. This latest outbreak of an emerging threat should serve as a reminder of the importance of doing something about growing epidemics in other parts of the world, including low- and middle-income countries. Surely, Covid has shown us that disease knows no boundaries. A growing outbreak is bound to create havoc in other parts of the world if left unchecked, uncontained, and uncontrolled. And that is exactly what is happening with monkeypox today.
In contrast to Covid-19, which began with a novel virus that was unknown to humankind before 2019, the virus that causes monkeypox has been documented since 1958. Researchers in Africa have been sounding the alarm on the increasing spread of monkeypox for years. There was a call for action as Nigeria’s monkeypox outbreak (that started in 2017) began to expand to present day, but it went unheeded according to Chikwe Ihekweazu, the former director general of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.
Preliminary data on genomic sequencing of U.S. monkeypox cases shows at least two distinct circulating monkeypox variants. Two U.S. cases with travel history to Nigeria are genetically similar to a 2021 monkeypox case seen in a Texas man who also traveled to Nigeria. The other circulating monkeypox virus is genetically similar to infections occurring in Europe. While all circulating strains of monkeypox likely have a common ancestor, the larger issue is that there may have been several introductions of the monkeypox virus to the U.S. from different parts of the world — all likely happening longer and more frequently than public health officials may have suspected. This suggests there has been undetected transmission for some time.
It is unclear just how long this outbreak has been brewing, but it seems cases of monkeypox may have been confused for more common sexually transmitted infections (STI) like herpes and syphilis as this latest outbreak has been introduced into the sexual network of men who have sex with men (MSM). Centers for…