Are we headed for COVID 2.0?
With the news that hundreds of confirmed cases of the “monkeypox” virus have flared up and, unusually, spread into dozens of countries, lots of people have started to panic online over whether we’re looking at another pandemic. But we all ought to take a deep breath, revisit the facts, and avoid overreacting.
First, here’s some context about what’s got everyone so worked up.
“Although scientists rarely spot monkeypox outside of the 11 countries in Africa that have reported cases, a recent outbreak has led the disease to be identified in a dozen European countries, along with the U.S., Australia, Canada and Israel,” NBC News reports. “At least 160 confirmed cases of monkeypox have been reported this month in non-African countries. All but 10 of those cases have been in Europe: 56 in the United Kingdom, 41 in Spain, 37 in Portugal and single-digit case counts in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland.”
Gastly images of monkeypox patients have flown around social media, alongside fevered commentary.
Just to be clear, at this point in time there should be no other option on the table except elimination of Monkeypox.
— Dr Dan Goyal (@danielgoyal) May 24, 2022
— NTV Kenya (@ntvkenya) May 23, 2022
— Eric Feigl-Ding (@DrEricDing) May 24, 2022
Mainstream media coverage has been breathless, and Google searches for information and updates about monkeypox have skyrocketed in recent weeks.
Google Trends: Monkeypox officially more viral than COVID-19 pic.twitter.com/amTHS7WzMK
— Tyler Carditis (@TyCardon) May 24, 2022
But there’s no actual reason for people to be panicking. It is nowhere near as contagious as COVID-19 and, based on what we know right now, doesn’t have the potential to become an uncontainable pandemic like COVID.
“Monkeypox is not novel,” Yale School of Medicine professor Dr. Howard Forman explained to me. “ It is contagious but mostly through contact, rather than aerosol.”
And it’s simply a totally different situation from COVID. Whereas we had nothing when the pandemic first began, we already have existing treatments and vaccines that can be applied to monkeypox, according to the CDC.
“It has both therapeutics as well as vaccines already available,” Forman concurred. “And smallpox vaccination appears to prevent monkeypox. While it has a high lethality rate, it can be readily contained, even if there was a large outbreak.”
“Even at the earliest stages of COVID, most people (I might have been too naive to really understand this) knew that we could never contain COVID,” he added. “We could only mitigate. Monkeypox can and will be contained. Period.”
In sum, most of the online alarmism isn’t warranted by the current facts. It’s natural, but we shouldn’t give in to the impulse toward panic. It clouds our judgment and opens the door to authority figures who would exploit our fear.