Infectious disease expert says US is ‘in flux’ amid monkeypox outbreak

Monkeypox cases continue to rise across the country, with around 200 cases confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as of Monday afternoon.

Despite the growing number of cases, David J. Cennimo, associate professor of medicine and pediatrics in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, said the overall caseload was still low.

“We are finding cases, so I think raising awareness of the disease is important because the more people are aware of monkeypox, especially if they have symptoms, they will seek medical care and that’s important to us. to find good deals,” he said.

Cennimo compared the current outbreak to one that occurred in 2003, which infected 47 people in six states after originating in Gambian rats imported from Ghana.

He said what worked to curb the virus two decades ago was alerting people who had come into contact with the bagged rats and advising them to avoid contact with others if they developed lesions, which is a symptom of monkeypox. Now times have changed, he said, explaining that current epidemiology indicates that the disease is sexually transmitted.

Cennimo said he advised patients to practice safer sex, especially those in heavily populated hotspots like the New York metropolitan area where people may have more than one sexual partner and thus increase their risk of infection.

It also means public health officials should focus on messaging campaigns that emphasize how crucial it is to identify and report symptoms in at-risk patients without stigmatizing those who are infected.

“Hopefully we can handle this like we did in 2003, because what we absolutely don’t want to see happen is monkeypox becoming another endemic virus,” he said. “If we can break the cycle of transmission now, take care of people who are already infected, and not infect other people, in theory we could do that.”

Another challenge facing public health officials, he said, is highlighting the dangers associated with monkeypox without causing panic among the general public. Cennimo added that since the country is still grappling with the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, officials are faced with dueling priorities.

Speaking about existing monkeypox vaccines and the Biden administration’s preventative measures to build the national stockpile, Cennimo said vaccinations may become necessary for some patient populations, but noted that it’s unlikely there will be. have a mass vaccination campaign like there was for COVID. He attributed this to the considerable side effects of the vaccine, which, like the smallpox vaccine, can be even worse than the disease itself.

Cennimo said people should continue to monitor information about outbreaks, especially in hotspots, and adopt behaviors that reduce the risk of potential infection.

“If you’re already protecting yourself against syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia, those same behaviors are going to help you,” he said. “Conversely, if you’re not, I think you should consider this as another potential concern for increasing your self-protective behaviors.”

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