Will Monkeypox Become A Pandemic? Here's What Experts Say

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News & Politics
Damir Mujezinovic

COVID-19 may still be spreading, but effective and widely-available vaccines have made dealing with the virus much easier.

The consensus now is that the world is out of the pandemic phase, adapting and learning to live with coronavirus. But what if another pandemic is on the horizon?

The accelerating spread of monkeypox -- an infectious disease caused by the monkeypox virus or MPV -- has some worried.

WHO Issues Monkeypox Warning

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus made waves on Wednesday when he suggested that there is a real danger of monkeypox continuing to spread.

"The risk of monkeypox becoming established in non-endemic countries is real," Ghebreyesus said at a briefing in Geneva, as reported by NBC News.

The WHO has confirmed more than 1,000 monkeypox cases in 29 countries outside Africa since the beginning of May.

The virus spreading to countries where it is not endemic would change everything, according to public health officials and other experts.


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Is There Reason For Concern?

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But is there a reason for concern? Experts appear to be divided.

Amira Albert Roess, a professor of global health and epidemiology at George Mason University, said it is no surprise some in the medical community are worried.

"Is this going to become something that is just going to keep on moving from person to person and then we will not be able to control it?" Roess asked.

"Right now we’re more at risk for the virus maybe becoming endemic due to ongoing human-to-human transmission and our inability to stop the transmission cycle," she added.

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Others seem more optimistic.

Eric Toner, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, pointed out that smallpox vaccines have proven effective at warding off monkeypox.

"This is one of the rare diseases in which you can vaccinate somebody after they’ve been infected, before they have symptoms, and block the disease... We would have to really screw things up not to be able to contain this," he said.

Dr. Rosamund Lewis, the WHO's technical lead on monkeypox, echoed this sentiment.

"There’s still a window of opportunity to prevent the onward spread of monkeypox in those at highest risk right now," Lewis stated.

CDC's Monkeypox Alert

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently raised its monkeypox alert to a level two, encouraging all Americans to "take precautions, especially when traveling.

As reported by The Hill, the CDC also recommends people wear face masks, but some experts believe they are not really necessary.

Monkeypox does not seem to be airborne -- like COVID-19 is -- but rather spreads through close skin-to-skin contact.