The recent headlines about a sudden emergence of an unusual disease, spreading case by case across countries and continents may, for some, evoke memories of early 2020.
But monkeypox is no COVID-19 — in a good way.
Health officials worldwide have turned their attention to a new outbreak of monkeypox, a virus normally found in central and west Africa that has appeared across Europe and the U.S. in recent weeks — even in people who have not traveled to Africa at all.
But experts say that, while it’s important for public health officials to be on the lookout for monkeypox, the virus is extremely unlikely to spin out into an uncontrolled worldwide pandemic in the same way that COVID-19 did.
“Let’s just say right off the top that monkeypox and COVID are not the same disease,” said Dr. Rosamund Lewis, head of Smallpox Secretariat at the World Health Organization, at a public Q&A session on Monday.
For starters, monkeypox spreads much less easily than COVID-19. Scientists have been studying monkeypox since it was first discovered in humans more than 50 years ago. And its similarities to smallpox mean it can be combated in many of the same ways.
As a result, scientists are already familiar with how monkeypox spreads, how it presents, and how to treat and contain it — giving health authorities a much bigger head start on containing it.
Here are some of the other ways the public health approach to monkeypox is different from COVID-19:
Scientists already know how it spreads, and it’s different than COVID
Monkeypox typically requires very close contact to spread — most often skin-to-skin contact, or prolonged physical contact with clothes or bedding that was used by an infected person.
By contrast, COVID-19 spreads quickly and easily. Coronavirus can spread simply by talking with another person, or sharing a room, or in rare cases, being inside a room that an infected person had previously been in.
“Transmission is really happening from close physical contact, skin-to-skin contact. It’s quite different from COVID in that sense,” said Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, an infectious disease epidemiologist with the WHO.
The classic symptom of monkeypox is a rash that often begins on the face, then spreads to a person’s limbs or other parts of the body.
“The incubation from time of exposure to appearance of lesions is anywhere between five days to about 21 days, so can be quite long,” said Dr. Boghuma Kabisen Titanji, an infectious disease physician and virologist at Emory University in Atlanta.
The current outbreak has seen some different patterns, experts say — particularly, that the rash begins in the genital area first, and may not spread across the body.
Either way, experts say, it is typically through physical contact of that rash that the virus spreads.
“It’s not a situation where if you’re passing someone in the grocery store, they’re going to be at risk for monkeypox,” said Dr. Jennifer McQuiston of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in a briefing Monday.
The people most likely to be at risk are close personal contacts of an infected person, such as household members or health care workers who may have treated them, she said.
“We’ve seen over the years that often the best way to deal with cases is to keep those who are sick isolated so that they can’t spread the virus to close family members and loved ones, and to follow up proactively with those that a patient has contact with so they can watch for symptoms,” McQuiston said.
With this version of virus, people generally recover in two to four weeks, scientists find, and the death rate is less than 1%.
Monkeypox is less contagious than COVID-19
One factor that helped COVID-19 spread rapidly across the globe was the fact that it is very contagious. That’s even more true of the variants that have emerged in the past year.
Epidemiologists point to a disease’s R0 value — the average number of people you’d expect an infected person to pass the disease along to.
For a disease outbreak to grow, the R0 must be higher than 1. For the original version of COVID-19, the number was somewhere between 2 and 3. For the omicron variant, that number is about 8, a recent study found.
Although the recent spread of monkeypox cases is alarming, the virus is far less contagious than COVID-19, according to Jo Walker, an epidemiologist at Yale School of Public Health.
“Most estimates from earlier outbreaks have had an R0 of less than one. With that, you can have clusters of cases, even outbreaks, but they will eventually die out on their own,” they said. “It could spread between humans, but not very efficiently in a way that could sustain itself onward without constantly being reintroduced from animal populations.”
That’s a big reason that public health authorities, including the WHO, are expressing confidence that cases of monkeypox will not suddenly skyrocket. “This is a containable situation,” Van Kerkhove said Monday at the public session.
Because monkeypox is closely related to smallpox, there are already vaccines
Monkeypox and smallpox are both members of the Orthopox family of viruses. Smallpox, which once killed millions of people every year, was eradicated in 1980 by a successful worldwide campaign of vaccines.
The smallpox vaccine is about 85% effective against monkeypox, the WHO says, although that effectiveness wanes over time.
“These viruses are closely related to each other, and now we have the benefit of all those years of research and diagnostics and treatments and in vaccines that will be brought to bear upon the situation now,” said Lewis of the WHO.
Some countries, including the U.S., have held smallpox vaccines in strategic reserve in case the virus ever reemerged. Now, those can be used to contain a monkeypox outbreak.
The FDA has two vaccines already approved for use against smallpox.
One, a two-dose vaccine called Jynneos, is also approved for use against monkeypox. About a thousand doses are available in the Strategic National Stockpile, the CDC says, and the company will provide more in the coming months.
“We have already worked to secure sufficient supply of effective treatments and vaccines to prevent those exposed from contracting monkeypox and treating people who’ve been affected,” said Dr. Raj Panjabi of the White House pandemic office, in an interview with NPR.
Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.
A Logarithmic Map of the Entire Observable Universe – Visual Capitalist
A Logarithmic Map of the Entire Observable Universe
Among the scientific community, it’s widely believed that so far humans have only discovered about 5% of the universe.
Yet, despite knowing about just a fraction of what’s out there, we’ve still managed to discover galaxies billions of light-years away from Earth.
How Does the Map Work?
Before diving in, it’s worth touching on a few key details about the map.
First off, it’s important to note that the celestial objects shown on this map are not shown to scale. If it was made to scale with sizes relative to how we see them from Earth, nearly all of the objects would be miniscule dots (except the Moon, the Sun, and some nebulae and galaxies).
Secondly, each object’s distance from the Earth is measured on a logarithmic scale, which increases exponentially, in order to fit in all the data.
Within our Solar System, the map’s scale spans astronomical units (AU), roughly the distance from the Earth to the Sun. Beyond, it grows to measure millions of parsecs, with each one of those equal to 3.26 light-years, or 206,000 AU.
Exploring the Map
The map highlights a number of different celestial objects, including:
- The Solar System
- Comets and asteroids
- Star systems and clusters
- Galaxies, including the Milky Way
- Galaxy clusters
- Cosmic microwave background—radiation leftover from the Big Bang
Featured are some recently discovered objects, such as the most distant known galaxy to date, HD1. Scientists believe this newly-discovered galaxy was formed just 330 million years after the Big Bang, or roughly 8.4 billion years before Earth.
It also highlights some newly deployed spacecraft, including the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which is NASA’s latest infrared telescope, and the Tiangong Space Station, which was made by China and launched in April 2021.
Why is it called the “Observable” Universe?
Humanity has been interested in space for thousands of years, and many scientists and researchers have dedicated their lives to furthering our collective knowledge about space and the universe.
Most people are familiar with Albert Einstein and his theory of relativity, which became a cornerstone of both physics and astronomy. Another well-known scientist was Edwin Hubble, whose findings of galaxies moving away from Earth is considered to be the first observation of the universe expanding.
But the massive logarithmic map above, and any observations from Earth or probes in space, are limited in nature. The universe is currently dated to be around 13.8 billion years old, and nothing in the universe can travel faster than the speed of light.
When accounting for the expansion of the universe and observed objects moving away from us, that means that the farthest we can “see” is currently calculated at around 47.7 billion light-years. And since light takes time to travel, much of what we’re observing actually happened many millions of years ago.
But our understanding of the universe is evolving constantly with new discoveries. What will we discover next?
This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist’s Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.
‘Urgent’ action needed in Europe over monkeypox spread: WHO – Al Jazeera English
WHO’s Europe director calls on governments and civil society ‘to scale up efforts’ to reverse the spread of the virus.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has called for ‘urgent’ action to prevent the spread of monkeypox in Europe, noting that cases had tripled there over the past two weeks.
To date, more than 5,000 monkeypox cases have been reported from 51 countries worldwide, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Infections in Europe represent about 90 percent of the global total of cases, and 31 countries in the European region have now identified cases, WHO Regional Director for Europe Dr Hans Henri Kluge said on Friday.
“Today, I am intensifying my call for governments and civil society to scale up efforts … to prevent monkeypox from establishing itself across a growing geographical area,” Kluge said in a statement.
“Urgent and coordinated action is imperative if we are to turn a corner in the race to reverse the ongoing spread of this disease,” Kluge said.
Kluge also said in his statement that there are no reported deaths from the current outbreak so far.
“The vast majority of cases have presented with a rash and about three-quarters have reported systemic symptoms such as fever, fatigue, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhoea, chills, sore throat or headache,” Kluge said.
Until May, monkeypox had never been known to cause large outbreaks beyond Africa, where the disease is endemic in several countries and mostly causes limited outbreaks when it jumps to people from infected wild animals.
‘No room for complacency’
Kluge said that Europe remains at the centre of the expanding outbreak and the risk remains high.
“There is simply no room for complacency, especially right here in the European Region with its fast-moving outbreak that with every hour, day and week is extending its reach into previously unaffected areas,” he said.
The WHO does not think the outbreak currently constitutes a public health emergency of international concern but will review its position shortly, he added.
The UN agency estimates that the disease can be fatal, but smallpox vaccines are protective and some antiviral drugs are also being developed.
To date, there have been about 1,800 suspected monkeypox cases including more than 70 deaths in Africa. Vaccines have never been used to stop monkeypox outbreaks in Africa. The WHO’s Africa office said this week that countries with vaccine supplies “are mainly reserving them for their own populations”.
Most monkeypox infections so far have been observed in young men who have sex with men, chiefly in urban areas, according to the WHO. It is investigating cases of possible sexual transmission but maintains the disease is primarily spread through close contact.
Kluge said the problem of stigmatisation in some countries might make some people wary of seeking healthcare and said the WHO was working with partners including organisers of gay Pride events.
As Monkeypox Spreads, Here's Who Should Get A Vaccine—And How – Forbes
Monkeypox vaccines will be offered to anyone in the U.S. who thinks they have been been exposed to the virus and groups most at risk of catching it, including men who have sex with men, measures officials hope will contain the growing outbreak as they work to bolster limited supplies.
The new strategy recommends anyone with a confirmed or suspected exposure to monkeypox get vaccinated, expanding earlier rules limiting the shots to those with known exposures only.
This includes people who have had close physical contact with someone diagnosed with monkeypox, people who know their sexual partner was diagnosed and “men who have sex with men who have recently had multiple sex partners in a venue where there was known to be monkeypox or in an area where monkeypox is spreading,” the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said.
HHS said it will make 56,000 doses of the Jynneos monkeypox vaccine immediately available to states from the national stockpile and will provide an additional 240,000 doses in the coming weeks.
Jynneos, produced by Danish biotech Bavarian Nordic, is given in two doses delivered 28 days apart and is the safer of two vaccines used against monkeypox.
Supplies are limited and officials said states with the highest rates of monkeypox and that have more people vulnerable to severe disease will be prioritized, with Hawaii, Massachusetts, Utah, Illinois, New York, Rhode Island, California, Colorado and Florida and Washington, D.C., slated to be in the first tier of vaccine recipients, according to a draft of the plans seen by the Washington Post.
States may also request supplies of ACAM2000, an older vaccine developed for smallpox that is also believed to protect against monkeypox and is in much greater supply, though it is associated with serious side effects and its design makes it unsuitable for immunocompromised and pregnant people.
Monkeypox is a well-understood entity that has flared up in parts of Central and Western Africa for decades. For decades, too, monkeypox has mostly been ignored by the global community who, before this year’s outbreak, rarely encountered the disease and these instances were almost always linked to travel. It does not spread easily and is primarily transmitted through close contact with an infected animal or person or contaminated objects like towels, clothes or bedding, though it can also spread via respiratory droplets produced when people breathe, cough, talk or sneeze. Monkeypox typically causes symptoms that include fever and a characteristic rash. The infection is usually relatively mild and will go away on its own within a month or so. It can kill and cause serious illness, however, and infection is particularly risky for children and pregnant people. The virus is a close relative of smallpox, unarguably one of the deadliest diseases to plague humanity and the only human disease to have ever been eradicated. This proximity means treatments and vaccines are available for monkeypox, even if not designed for it.
In May, the near-simultaneous emergence of monkeypox in countries where it does not usually spread in Europe and North America alarmed experts and public health authorities. Some of these experts have long warned that the complete cessation of smallpox vaccination would leave the world vulnerable to monkeypox outbreaks and the way cases cropped up suggests it may have been quietly circulating for some time. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show there have been 351 confirmed cases of monkeypox in the U.S. as of June 29, with large clusters in California (80), New York (72), Illinois (46) and Florida (35). The official count is likely to be a severe underestimate and could be painting an overly rosy picture of the disease’s spread. Experts warn that inadequate and underwhelming testing for the virus has left the nation ignorant as to the true extent of the outbreak. Globally, the CDC said there have been more than 5,000 cases confirmed across 51 different countries by laboratory testing during the 2022 outbreak. The bulk of these have been recorded in European countries like the U.K. (1,076), Germany (874), Spain (800), France (440), Portugal (391) and the Netherlands (257). A notable cluster has also been documented in Canada (276). Many more cases are suspected, but not confirmed, and official tallies likely underestimate the number of cases, particularly in areas with poor testing infrastructure. This data also does not capture the extent of the much longer monkeypox outbreak that has been ongoing in some African countries, notably Nigeria, from earlier this year and as an endemic disease for decades. Despite seeing more infections over a much longer time period, these countries have not received any monkeypox vaccines.
1.6 million. That’s how many doses of the Jynneos vaccine the federal government will make available this year, HHS said, including the nearly 300,000 doses already released or expected in coming weeks. HHS said it expects an additional 750,000 doses will be made available over summer and another 500,000 throughout fall. As of late June, HHS said it had already distributed more than 9,000 doses of vaccine.
What To Watch For
Vaccine supplies and changing eligibility. There is not nearly enough of the Jynneos vaccine available in the federal stockpile for everyone who might want it. There have already been supply issues in areas that launched their own initiatives ahead of the national campaign. In Washington, D.C., and New York City, for example, vaccine supplies reportedly ran out less than a day after they kick started their immunization drives. The issue could intensify if eligibility guidelines expand or the outbreak grows. Officials have acknowledged the limited supply of vaccines and suggested the national strategy may change once supplies are on firmer footing. A stronger vaccine supply chain could mean a shift to vaccinating people before they have been exposed to monkeypox, CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said at a press briefing.
While the Jynneos vaccine may be in short supply, HHS officials told Forbes there is enough smallpox vaccine in federal stockpiles to immunize the entire U.S. population. The precise breakdown is not clear, but a significant portion consists of the ACAM vaccine. There is also a third shot, the Aventis Pasteur Smallpox Vaccine (APSV), which has similar setbacks to ACAM and has not been cleared for use. The nature of the ACAM vaccine poses some unique challenges if Jynneos supplies are insufficient. Aside from the noted risk of potentially serious side effects, the vaccine uses a related virus, vaccinia, to induce a sore or pock in the recipient, usually on the upper arm. On rare occasions, this can spread elsewhere on the body or even to other people and can leave a distinctive scar. The use of live virus limits who it can be given to, notably excluding people with compromised immune systems, those in close contact with such people and pregnant people. As monkeypox cases have been reported disproportionately among men who have sex with men, this poses a potentially significant problem, as rates of people living with HIV are higher in that community. An additional issue arises with how the ACAM shot is used. It relies on an old form of immunization featuring a distinct technique and special bifurcated needle, which most practicing clinicians are unlikely to have much, if any, experience using.
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