The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned earlier this week that vaccines alone are not enough to stop the spread of the monkeypox epidemic and urged people at risk to take additional precautions. Meanwhile, White House Senior Medical Adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said in a broadcast interview that about 99% of the cases have occurred in men who have sex with men.
Fauci also called on the US federal government to combat any homophobic stigma associated with monkeypox by concentrating on the virus itself, not the people who are infected with it.
Although cases of non-sexual transmission have been detected, WHO's European Chief Hans Kluge stressed that ”we must respond by focusing on the dominant mode of transmission (skin-to-skin contact during sexual acts) and its highest risk groups.”
The WHO activated its highest level of health alert on Saturday to try to contain the outbreak of monkeypox, of which 19,188 confirmed cases have been reported in the current outbreak, with 3,591 cases in the U.S, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). New York had 900 of those cases, and California had the second-highest concentration with 356 confirmed cases. Thus far, there have been only two cases in children.
Monkeypox is generally a self-limiting disease, but in this case things are going differently. In the WHO European region, the epidemic has seen the virus spread rapidly with 37 countries and areas hit so far, with evidence of ongoing local transmission, Kluge said.
The 160,000 doses of vaccine that the EU has to respond to the immediate needs of member states are now in the distribution phase and we continue to closely monitor the situation, he also pointed out.
There are no specific treatments or vaccines for monkeypox virus infections, but several countries are using antiviral drugs and vaccines that were developed to protect against smallpox, which was eradicated in the 1980s.
Another second-generation monkeypox vaccine, ACAM2000, was also approved for use in the United States, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended against its use in people with health conditions, such as a weakened immune system and skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis/eczema or pregnancy.
In the meantime, the WHO has issued a warning: To those currently at highest risk – men who have sex with men and especially those with multiple sexual partners – we say: Get the facts – we know how the disease is spreading, and also what one can do to protect oneself. Consider limiting your sexual partners and interactions at this time. This may be a tough message, but exercising caution can safeguard you and your wider community. While vaccination may be available to some people with higher exposure risks, it is not a silver bullet, and we still ask you to take steps to lower that risk for the time being. If you have or think you have monkeypox, you are infectious – so do everything you can to prevent spreading the disease. Isolate if you can, do not have sex while you are recovering, and do not attend parties or large gatherings where close contact will happen.
In a concurrent opinion, Fauci said that we've got to understand the modality of transmission, the manifestations, also the risk for people like children and pregnant women, he said. There's really a profound risk.
You reach out to the community. You make it very easy for them to have access to testing, to treatment, and to vaccines, as opposed to making it a situation where people are afraid to come forward for those types of things, Fauci also pointed out regarding sexual-orientation bias.
The CDC said the risk of contracting monkeypox in the US was low, but anyone into close contact with an individual carrying the disease is at risk of infection while insisting there was no data yet available on the efficacy of the vaccines in use during the current outbreak of monkeypox.