“I think they’re going to be reluctant to use the word pandemic, because it implies that they’ve failed to contain this…”
Last week, I noted monkeypox cases were popping up across the country.
Former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb is warning that the window to get control of the virus may be closed.
“I think they’re going to be reluctant to use the word pandemic, because it implies that they’ve failed to contain this, and I think at this point we’ve failed to contain this,” Gottlieb told CBS “Face the Nation” moderator Margaret Brennan.
“We’re now at the cusp of this becoming an endemic virus, with this now become something that’s persistent that we need to continue to deal with,” he added.
Although cases have primarily been detected among men who has sex with men, Gottlieb says the virus has “spread more broadly in the community,” and the current reported trends are in part because testing has focused on sexual health clinics.
“We’re probably detecting just a fraction of the actual cases,” he said.
As of Friday, there were 1,800 confirmed cases of monkeypox in the country, though experts say lack of testing capacity means the true spread of the virus is likely much wider.
While some of the early challenges presented by the monkeypox outbreak echo the same major difficulties of the coronavirus pandemic, specifically limited availability of tests and vaccines, health officials say the comparisons between the two viruses only go so far.
Most importantly, monkeypox — though it can cause severe flu-like symptoms and debilitating pain — is rarely fatal. It’s also not new. Unlike COVID, which left scientists scrambling to understand how it spread and how it can be treated, monkeypox was first documented back in 1958.
Monkeypox typically spreads through close, often intimate, physical contact, rather than through the air. There also is no need to wait months for vaccines to be developed. Smallpox vaccines helped eradicate the once-devastating global disease and have also been effective against monkeypox.
Given the monkey business that regularly occurs in the nation’s capital, it is interesting to note that Washington, D.C., has the country’s highest number of monkeypox cases per capita.
There have been 122 cases of the virus reported in the past two months in D.C., which is about one case per 6,500 residents, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Second in line behind D.C. is New York, which has one case per 40,000 residents. Then, Illinois has one case for every 73,000 residents and California has one case per 148,000 residents.
“We are specifically working with reaching out to members of the LGBTQ+ community, specifically gay and bisexual men, because those are the communities most affected by the virus at this moment,” Bowser said.
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