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Op-Ed: Yes, monkeypox is likely to be a major issue in the short term at least

COVID didn’t have any visible symptoms. Monkeypox does.

Multiple cases of monkeypox in Europe, the UK, Canada and the United States have health authorities worried that the dangerous, though usually not life-threatening, disease could be spreading - Copyright AFP Olga MALTSEVA
Multiple cases of monkeypox in Europe, the UK, Canada and the United States have health authorities worried that the dangerous, though usually not life-threatening, disease could be spreading - Copyright AFP Olga MALTSEVA

When New York City declared a disaster over monkeypox, they weren’t kidding. Monkeypox is a nasty virus. Symptoms include high fever, and skin lesions. That’s bad enough; contagion spread in the city itself, indicating a lot of direct transmissions have been happening.

The current situation

  • NY has already recorded 1400 cases. National numbers are about 5000.
  • CDC has issued information regarding signs and symptoms.  
  • There is a vaccine available and people are strongly encouraged to get a shot.
  • Global headlines indicate monkeypox is taking hold in multiple areas worldwide.
  • Deaths are being reported.
  • Sepsis is possible.
  • WHO has declared monkeypox a health emergency.
  • Unlike COVID, health authorities seem more confident about managing monkeypox. The main issues for management are transmission and spread.
  • Monkeypox is not necessarily fatal. See the WHO information regarding the virus.
  • One of the “benefits” of COVID is that global manufacturing is set up for large-scale vaccinations. Monkeypox vaccinations can be mass-produced, fast.
  • The lack of a clear epidemiological spread pattern doesn’t help management at this point.
  • It may not become a pandemic, according to some experts.
  • No solid global numbers are visible. Figures for 7 July indicate 6,000 cases in 58 countries worldwide. Obviously, that’s no longer the case.
  • Some are saying it “can’t be contained”. This seems to relate to the fact that monkeypox is largely sexually transmitted.


An image of the rash seen in monkeypox. Source – CDC, Public Domain (CC0 1.0)

The potential future problems are much less appealing and far wider-ranging:

Monkeypox is a virus. It’s directly related to smallpox, one of the most destructive viruses in history. That’s not encouraging. It will naturally mutate according to the most successful infection patterns, like COVID. Larger numbers of infections mean more mutations and therefore more risk of a more infectious type of the virus. A more infectious, upgraded version of monkeypox is quite possible.

Exposure is based on human-to-human contact. That means a time lag between vaccination and treatment if monkeypox spreads worldwide, therefore more risk of exposure during that time.

Irresponsible politicization of monkeypox is quite possible. A repeat of the disastrous anti-mask, anti-vax syndrome could add a lot to the spread of this virus. Let’s remember that when COVID was at its height, certain elements of US politics were on the side of the virus.

Indications are that this virus can spread easily and that it has, in high population centers with a lot of contact interactions.

There’s absolutely no reason to believe that monkeypox is a “gays only” disease, which it’s already being stigmatized as being. Contact transmission isn’t necessarily sexual even according to current early levels of information. That means the likely transmission scenarios aren’t a simple demographic exercise.

Likely precautions will include:

  • Vaccinations
  • Social distancing
  • Masks
  • Mandated quarantine

COVID didn’t have any visible symptoms. Monkeypox does. If someone shows the lesions, it might be more persuasive to ensure people follow guidelines. Otherwise, it’s back to 2020. It’ll be interesting, if infuriating, to see how the world’s self-proclaimed epidemiologists and immunologists make a mess of this one.


The opinions expressed in this Op-Ed are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Digital Journal or its members.

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Editor-at-Large based in Sydney, Australia.

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