by Finn McRedmond
Tuesday, 2
August 2022
Analysis
16:00

Countries disagree over severity of monkeypox

Reactions to the disease have varied in urgency across the world
by Finn McRedmond
Credit: Getty

Since the monkeypox outbreak was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern — the World Health Organization’s highest level of alert — on July 23rd, reactions across the world have varied in urgency.

In the wake of WHO’s announcement Australia declared monkeypox a “disease of national significance” on Thursday. This prompted a series of inter-regional coordination measures to manage the outbreak. As of 28th July, only 45 cases had been detected in Australia.

Europe’s first monkey-pox related death was reported in Spain on Friday, and the second on Saturday. There are thought to be only three deaths so far outside Africa in the current outbreak. It may mark a turning point in the trajectory of the disease containment, but so far the government has stuck with its strategy of public information campaigns, and vaccinating healthcare workers and suspected close contacts.

As of 1st August there have been a suspected 2,759 cases in the United Kingdom. But the government has to declassify monkeypox as a so-called “High Consequence Infectious Disease.” A joint statement from several UK health bodies suggests the strain of monkeypox associated with the current outbreak can be relegated to a less concerning status. It is a known quantity, there is a vaccine, and several functional treatments.

Furthermore, the statement stressed that an “overly precautionary response” might create a public health risk in itself.

To bolster the UK’s attitude of cautious optimism, just days after WHO declared a public health emergency, transmission in the UK has showed signs of plateauing.

By contrast, on Saturday New York City — the current epicentre of the US outbreak — became the second American city to declare a public health emergency over the virus, just two days after San Francisco did the same. In a joint statement from New York City Mayor Eric Adams and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan said: “This outbreak must be met with urgency, action, and resources, both nationally and globally, and this declaration of a public health emergency reflects the seriousness of the moment.” Since then, California has declared a statewide public health emergency, but the federal government of the United States is yet to make such a move.

Disagreement about the level of the monkeypox threat appears to go all the way up to the committees of the WHO itself. When the body declared a public health emergency, its director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus did so without the consensus of his advisors, The International Health Regulations Emergency Committee.

The committee twice recommended against declaring a public health emergency. Most recently, after a seven hour meeting, nine of its members were against the proposition while only six were in favour. This is the first time since the establishment of the PHEIC system that the WHO has gone against the recommendation of its advisors.

Meanwhile, certain health commentators that rose to prominence calling for heavy suppression of the Covid-19 epidemic are now calling for containment measures against Monkeypox. Dr. Deepti Gurdasani, a clinical epidemiologist, has said it is “vital to act early – the cost of acting late will always be higher. And we can’t dismiss the risk to children, given what we know.”

Meanwhile, Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist who regularly called for more stringent lockdown measures during the pandemic, warned: “The US #monkeypox situation is spiraling out of control. The Biden WH needs to hurry up its public health emergency declaration”.

A former advisor to Joe Biden, Andy Slavitt, said in a now-deleted tweet: “It is long past time for better action on Monkeypox. What it will take is people caring more about the damage it causes & understanding the impact of continuing not to address it.”

An editorial in Science magazine argued: “Unless the world develops and executes an international plan to contain the current monkeypox outbreak, it will be yet another emerging infectious disease that we will regret not containing.”

By late July over 22,000 cases have been reported worldwide.

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Stuart Sutherland
Stuart Sutherland
6 days ago

The anxiety addicts must be getting excited at another virus to scare everybody! There’ll have to be a new virus every year to keep the public in a permanent state of fear.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
6 days ago

Exactly. With the added factor in the US of the upcoming mid-terms.
According to Jimmy Dore they were experimenting with monkey pox in the Wuhan lab, which might be why it is suddenly so much more transmittable.

Andrew F
Andrew F
4 days ago

What, only every year?
Lets try every month.
Covidiots would not survive without being told they need masks and stay indoors.

Philip Stott
Philip Stott
6 days ago

the cost of acting late will always be higher. And we can’t dismiss the risk to children, given what we know.”
Given that the virus in ~ 99% of cases is restricted to men who have sex with men, I don’t believe we have to worry about children getting infected.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
6 days ago
Reply to  Philip Stott

Some of those “men” seem to be behaving like spoilt children anyway, with the refusal to take basic, very minimal precautions such as not having sex with a busload of people you barely know.

Andrew F
Andrew F
4 days ago
Reply to  Philip Stott

You are not very Christian towards gay people.
We now need to spend billions to find treatment for social disease.
Why worry about real problems like breast or prostate cancer?

Aaron James
Aaron James
6 days ago

Everything hinges on 100 days in the future. If the Republican Party sweeps in in USA Midterms; taking both houses and a good majority in the House of Representatives, and especially if the MAGA crowd of new Congress Candidates do as well as expected……

Then the whole debacle of the covid corruption will be put into review and exposed for the crime it was – and so this Monkey-Pox thing will also suddenly be relegated back to a monor medical issue rather than a hysterical Political issue.

100 days and counting down, let us hope the Biden House does not find yet more insane ways to be wrecking USA and the World in those few months.

Jason Highley
Jason Highley
6 days ago

Cancel Pride Month and quarantine anyone who participates in a sex party. Problem solved.

Andrew Vigar
Andrew Vigar
5 days ago
Reply to  Jason Highley

Global c*ckdown for two weeks. Yes!

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
4 days ago
Reply to  Jason Highley

2 weeks to slow the spread is for the plebs. Sacred victims may not be inconvenienced.

Last edited 4 days ago by Brian Villanueva
Andrew Horsman
Andrew Horsman
6 days ago

Unherd’s usually excellent editorial team somehow missed the obvious typo of the rogue letter ‘k’ in the title, and throughout this piece.

In common with the very many narcissistic megalomaniacs who have managed to bully and lie their way to power throughout history, desperados like Tedros and whoever it is that is pulling Biden’s strings have overreached their authority and are clearly now losing control of the narrative.

Popcorn, anyone?

Chris Milburn
Chris Milburn
5 days ago

Almost nobody I talk to has any idea that this is almost entirely a disease of concern to gay men. The odds of it affecting you (let alone killing you) if you are not a man who has sex with other men is less than your odds of being hit by lightning.
We live in a weird world when actually pointing out risk factors or naming groups at risk is now politically incorrect. We can’t say that fat people are more at risk from COVID, that drug abuse is abhorrent and life-shortening, and now can’t point out that one’s sexual proclivities define his monkeypox risk.

Jay Chase
Jay Chase
5 days ago
Reply to  Chris Milburn

It’s more precise to say it’s only a risk to highly promiscuous gay men. If you’re gay but aren’t frequenting bathhouses or circuit parties or hooking up on grindr then you aren’t at risk.
The problem is that all the gay media and activist organizations are run by bitchy queens who frame any criticism of highly promiscuous sexual behavior as homophobia. They still claim that closing the bathhouses during the 80s worsened the AIDS crisis due to stigma.
One thing I give Dr. Tedros credit for is that he actually said that gay men should temporarily limit their sexual partners. If only the CDC would say the same thing.

Andrew F
Andrew F
4 days ago
Reply to  Chris Milburn

To be fair, Douglas Murray pointed it out in either Spe**”or or Su**ay Ti*ES article.
I am not spelling it out fully in case Disgust algorithm censors the post.

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
6 days ago

Obviously all rational and responsible persons will wish to eschew risky behaviour. Perhaps, flowing on from the Covid lockdowns, certain actions could be banned, as was particularly popular in progressive circles at the time. For the good of society of course. What could be more reasonable? No one is safe unless se all are…

Last edited 6 days ago by Martin Smith
Andrew F
Andrew F
4 days ago
Reply to  Martin Smith

Bingo.
But as we know some behaviour, like having beer with friends in the park, makes Police running at you in 2 minutes…
For the good of Society, as you said…

Richard Falardeau
Richard Falardeau
5 days ago

If Ferguson modelled the risks associated to this disease we can sleep well!

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
4 days ago

The Western public health bureaucracy simply can not bring itself to accept the fact that (for now!) monkeypox is a disease almost entirely confined to the gay, promiscuous male subculture (literally 98% of all cases). In short, if you’re not having orgies with other men, you probably don’t have to worry.
This is a huge advantage, since it makes containing the disease much easier, but to cultivate that advantage, our public health people must stop blinding themselves to this fact. If it does start moving in the general population, and 4 year old kids start getting monkeypox from sitting in the wrong shopping cart, it will be public health’s fault for not doing the one thing they are actually tasked with: containing disease!
Public Health 2020: “Stay in your home! Close all businesses! Shut down restaurants! Wear a mask outside! And don’t you dare complain you stupid bigot.”
Public Health 2022: “We wouldn’t want to inconvenience you, and certainly don’t stop your Pride parties, but maybe you could put some gauze on your monkeypox rash before having an orgy. Only if you really want to.”

Intersectionality is seriously going to kill us all.

Last edited 4 days ago by Brian Villanueva
Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
5 days ago

One wonders why people engage in sex with a partner with lesions, except sometimes the lesions are hidden in the mouth or a**s. But generally they show up on skin as well which ought to be obvious except in very dark rooms. It seems a disease easy enough to avoid, how can it be treated as a real hazard to the population? There is no asymptomatic transmission, right?

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
5 days ago

never heard of it..