by Toby Green
Saturday, 21
May 2022
Analysis
07:15

Monkeypox is not the next Covid-19

If the WHO has any sense left, it will douse the alarm surrounding this outbreak
by Toby Green
He’s had a busy two years. Photographer: Ivan Valencia/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Today the World Health Organization (WHO) will hold an emergency meeting to discuss the ongoing monkeypox outbreak. According to initial reports, the meeting will focus on how the virus is spread and vaccination — with talk of repurposing stocks of a smallpox vaccine for close contacts of infected people. Sounds reasonable. And yet the talk about monkeypox is alarmist on both sides of the Covid-19 debate — from those who favour restrictions, and from those who don’t.

Kit Yates, a prominent member of Independent-SAGE, tweeted that we would soon be “hearing the ‘It’s time we learned to live with Monkeypox’ takes” from politicians who have “stopped giving a fuck about public health”.

At the other extreme, Maajid Nawaz claimed that “the global palace coup” will soon see an attempt to bring in new lockdowns, in line with the proposed WHO pandemic treaty — and pointed to Microsoft founder Bill Gates’ prediction in November 2021 that the next pandemic could come from smallpox (to which monkeypox is related).

So should we be worried? Let’s consider monkeypox first. Cases have been detected in the Western world, from Australia to the UK and the US — but in small numbers (a mere 20 cases in the UK). Moreover, unlike Covid-19, this is not a “new virus”. It’s been circulating in equatorial Africa since the 1970s. It can quite often affect people there without causing any alarm elsewhere at all — in 2021, 75 people died of monkeypox in the Democratic Republic of Congo, without any sign that anyone cared or was asking, as the New Scientist did in an alarmist headline yesterday, “Could monkeypox become a pandemic?”

On the other hand, immunity to monkeypox may be waning — as the Institut Pasteur suggested in September 2020. Declining herd immunity to smallpox may also be increasing susceptibility to monkeypox. Still, none of the evidence suggests cause for real alarm. Symptoms are mild among most of those who get infected. Moreover, monkeypox is not highly transmissible: on Wednesday Dr Michael Head, a virologist at Imperial College London explained that close physical contact is required for spread.

What’s alarming is not monkeypox, but the extreme responses on both sides. It looks like yet another wave of media hysteria of the kind all too common since Covid-19 emerged two years ago. Talk of automatic lockdowns for monkeypox are also alarming. This is not likely to be what Bill Gates calls “the next major outbreak”, though some appear to be preparing to treat it that way.

Is the noun “pandemic” only used when a virus offers a moderate threat in rich countries — and to hell with pathogens which afflict low income countries? Today’s WHO meeting can provide the answer. A sane response will douse alarmist talk, and make it clear that this is not “the next major outbreak”. Anything else will only fan the hysterical headlines and make a return to normal — or even partial rationality — ever more distant.

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Mike Michaels
Mike Michaels
2 months ago

“Will no one rid me of this turbulent software engineer?”

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
2 months ago
Reply to  Mike Michaels

Come back Henry Plantagenet, all is forgiven.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 months ago
Reply to  Mike Michaels

We rely on Musk to do that. His recent post about Gates was hilarious.

Fran Martinez
Fran Martinez
2 months ago
Reply to  Mike Michaels

Creating the ‘blue screen of death’ was apparently not enough for him

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
2 months ago

COVID responses put hitherto unimaginable power in the hands of health officials.

Why would they give it up now?

R Wright
R Wright
2 months ago

There must always be new windmills to tilt at.

Richard Pearse
Richard Pearse
2 months ago

I note that the article cited at “explained” while discussing human to human transmission said:

“Although the current cluster of cases is in men who have sex with men, it is probably too early to make conclusions about the mode of transmission or assume that sexual activity was necessary for transmission, unless we have clear epidemiological data and analysis.“

Derek Smith
Derek Smith
2 months ago
Reply to  Richard Pearse

“We should really ask the gays to turn it down a notch for a while, but we’re too scared.”

Alex Tickell
Alex Tickell
2 months ago

Given the economic damage caused by the Covid scare, I think we need to be fully informed about the effects and means of transmission of this virus immediately. The results must not be concealed from the public as happened in past REAL epidemics.

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
2 months ago
Reply to  Alex Tickell

Average of a UK Covid death : 83.
UK Life Expectancy : 81.
QED.

Alex Tickell
Alex Tickell
2 months ago
Reply to  ARNAUD ALMARIC

I agree, I wasn’t referring to the covid scam.

ran niel
ran niel
2 months ago

create frightful problem cause a reaction (with controlled media help) then force the solution the global conspiracy (Gates and WHO and Fauci Davos crowd etc). wanted to begin with.

Sam Sky
Sam Sky
2 months ago

How exactly is the WHO going to convincingly douse the alarm when their advice in Feb. 2020 was to allow planes to fly in and out of China willy-nilly? Why would anyone take what they said seriously after that?

Last edited 2 months ago by Ferrusian Gambit
laurence scaduto
laurence scaduto
2 months ago
Reply to  Sam Sky

That’s the sorriest bit of this sordid tale; the WHO totally humiliated themselves, actually made the situation worse; heads should roll, but instead they’re talking about a global treaty?!!
Dang!

Andrzej Wasniewski
Andrzej Wasniewski
2 months ago

When Bill Gates was getting rich actually making what people needed, and this way improving our lives, he was a big bad billionaire. Well, his detractors could never predict how much real damage he can really do by using his money to build a “better” world under his and his buddies control. Now he is the enlightened one trying to save humanity from itself. That means he has to be stopped as soon as possible and by any means necessary.

Alex Tickell
Alex Tickell
2 months ago

Sorry posted in error..

Last edited 2 months ago by Alex Tickell