Prof. David Heymann: is monkeypox the new Covid?
Freddie Sayers discusses the latest outbreak with the senior WHO epidemiologist
There are now 90 cases of monkeypox confirmed in the UK, with numbers rapidly increasing across the rest of the world. The institutions and individuals involved in tackling the COVID pandemic have turned their attention to tracking new cases and stockpiling vaccines. A 21 day isolation period has been enforced for high risk contacts of cases in England.
Freddie Sayers spoke to Professor David Heymann of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, one of the world’s most senior infectious disease epidemiologists. For 22 years he worked at the World Health Organisation in Geneva, as chief of the AIDS research programme and Assistant Director for Health Security. Before that he was in Africa for 13 years investigating, among other diseases, the spread of monkeypox.
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How is Monkeypox spread?
Transmission mainly occurs from a sore or a lesion on a person who’s infected to a person who’s not infected by physical contact with that lesion. So if, for example, someone not infected touches a monkeypox sore on a person who is infected, that can transmit to the person uninfected through a microscopic opening in the skin. So it’s physical contact that is the major way in which this infection is transferred from one person to another.
Is it a sexually transmitted disease?
A few years ago, in Nigeria, they did identify that there was a possibility that some of their transmission could have been by contact in the genital area. They actually identified some people who had genital lesions. Now this would not be a sexually-transmitted infection. This would just be transmission by close contact of that region from one person to another. But that’s only a hypothesis that occurred at that time; there was no proof.
Could the increased prevalence be connected to the lack of vaccination against Smallpox?
Yes, it’s a very important hypothesis, because in 1980, when smallpox was certified as eradicated, one of the major concerns was would monkeypox – and this is the Central African virus strain, which is much different than the West Africa strain – would that strain replace smallpox, because it causes a disease very similar in appearance to smallpox, it has a high mortality rate of 10% and infection is prevented by vaccination. So there was a great concern after eradication that this could possibly replace human smallpox as vaccination coverage decreased because vaccination was stopped in 1980.
Could the increased prevalence be connected to the Covid vaccines?
That’s highly unlikely. All vaccination programmes are continuing to go on and none of them have been associated with with human monkeypox. There’s no possibility that the vaccines in use could convert into a monkeypox strain. That’s just not a possibility.
Is Monkeypox exclusively found among gay and bisexual men?
Right now, it’s gay men who are being examined, and there’s increased surveillance looking for disease among them, and likely will be found. What’s not occurring, though, is a look in other populations that might be at risk also. So I think it’s very unfortunate that people would talk about one community as being at risk when we need to make sure that we’re examining all portions of population and understanding where the virus is actually transmitted at present. And as I said, this is an amplification of transmission due to behaviour where there’s close physical contact, and that physical contact in certain populations is in the genital area. Could be a sore on the thigh, it could be on the penis, it could be anywhere. And there may be a possibility that this virus also causes lesions that are on the mucus membranes. So we just don’t understand enough about it at present to really make any predictions or to really accuse any one population.
What cautionary steps, if any, should people take?
We can each prevent ourselves from getting infected if we do a risk assessment before we have close physical contact with another person who we feel might have been exposed to human monkeypox: am I planning to have close physical contact, or am I planning to take care of someone who has open skin lesions? That could be human monkeypox.
Are gay and bisexual men particularly susceptible in some way?
No, I think what’s happened is that the virus has entered a population, which because of behaviour is amplifying transmission, and when transmission is amplified, then it can continue to spread until people take the appropriate measures. It’s not a sexually transmitted infection. It’s an infection that’s transmitted by close physical contact. And in some instances, the lesions are in an area that is in the genital area where transmission occurs. But it also occurs in family clusters and it occurs wherever there’s contact with a lesion.
Is Monkeypox the next Covid?
The COVID pandemic has occurred because the virus has spread very easily from the nasal passages to other people. This is an entirely different virus. It’s transmitted by physical contact, and it would never have the same manifestations as does COVID-19. In fact, if you think back even the SARS outbreak in 2003, which many people remember, didn’t have the same transmissibility as the current coronavirus. So every virus is different. Every virus has its own way of transmitting, and the human monkeypox virus is not transmitted, at least in a major way, by the respiratory system… It will spread slower and hopefully it can be contained. There are, if necessary, just like for COVID-19, vaccines that could be used, but at present, their use would not be warranted on a large scale.
As a longstanding WHO official, what do you make of the Pandemic Treaty?
What we’ve seen in the COVID 19 pandemic is that countries want to do it on their own. There was very little global collaboration. Every country was trying different means of stopping infection and of preventing deaths. And gradually, they’ve all come around to the same strategy of vaccination. What’s important moving forward is that governments remember what happened at this pandemic, that they have in place surveillance systems, disease detection systems, to detect early and to respond early, and that includes all countries. So what’s going on right now is a recalibration in countries and a reexamination of global governance mechanisms. In fact, that’s going on this week at the World Health Assembly in Geneva, trying to better understand what the global community and what individual countries must do to better be prepared for the future.
That sounds concerning to people who are worried about undermining national sovereignty…
I think that countries would never give up their sovereignty in development of a treaty. But they would want it to provide an environment where they can have the necessary information and knowledge that they need, plus more equitable distribution of the requirements for pandemic preparedness and control.
Did the WHO perform well over the Covid pandemic?
I think the jury’s still out on how the World Health Organisation performed during this pandemic. What I can say though, is that the WHO has two arms, really. It has a political arm, which is what’s going on right now with the World Health Assembly, where ministers of health are together, deciding on priorities and discussing issues that are important politically. And then there’s a technical arm, which provides guidance to countries, and that technical arm has been functioning during the COVID pandemic, and providing evidence-based information. So, I think the jury’s still out on WHO, but until there’s something that could replace it, it’s a vital organisation for the world.
Thanks to Freddie for the interview once again. Unfortunately the answers are yet more evidence that epidemiology is a trash fire of pseudo-science and ideologically motivated illogic. Please God, send us a plague that exclusively infects epidemiologists to shut them all up for a while so we can get on with repairing the damage from their last little adventure.
It’s not a sexually transmitted infection. It’s an infection that’s transmitted by close physical contact.
FFS this is mere playing with words and has no intellectual merit. By this definition HIV isn’t sexually transmitted either because you can get it via blood transfusions. Of course it’s sexually transmitted, that’s why it’s currently contained to the gay community.
Every country was trying different means of stopping infection and of preventing deaths
What world does this guy live in and how do I move there? The response to COVID was globally standardized by epidemiologists who claimed a tiny library of NPIs (lockdowns, masks, contact tracing, social distancing) would “crush the curve” and even lead to zero COVID. And every country did these things, with just one or two departing from the herd to do those same things but just not as much.
I think the jury’s still out on how the World Health Organisation performed during this pandemic.
It really isn’t. Public health agencies of all forms took their reputation and trust and publicly set fire to them as visibly as possible. Not a single one even approximated doing well – they failed hard, and then lied about it continuously. The WHO needs to be shut down. Trump had absolutely the right idea here, he just wasn’t anywhere near aggressive enough as there’s nothing really special about the WHO. All public health agencies seem to be like that. Epidemiology needs to be globally defunded. As a field its karma is so far in the negative now it can probably never catch up.
Excellent comment. I would also draw attention to:
“I think the jury’s still out on WHO, but until there’s something that could replace it, it’s a vital organisation for the world.”
I don’t believe that statement is correct. It’s arguably better to have no organization than to have one that performs badly and, even unintentionally, causes harm.
Are all forms of physical contact sexual? Obviously not
Everyone knows what activity “close physical contact” is a pressure group acceptable euphemism for
No, but it’s irrelevant. If you go with that definition then there are no sexual transmitted diseases in existence, and the term would become meaningless.
Brilliant, well said!
Well said, we have become so cowed by wokery and the homosexual lobby in media and parliament, that we are now incapable of calling a spade a spade.
We now accept trans and gay ideology without question, disregarding the obvious fact that their sexual behaviour(pre set by nature millennia ago) has become exceedingly dangerous in the late twentieth and twenty first centuries.
We have learned nothing from the HIV and other STD rates amongst MSM, and refuse to associate the epidemics with behaviour common in the gay community, like “Open” relationships and extreme promiscuity.
All caused by the anti social activists who prize equality at any price.
Compulsory testing and contact tracing must be instigated at some stage and the lauding of a very unhealthy and dangerous lifestyle should cease immediately.
Compulsory testing and contact tracing for who? All gay people? Not only would that be deeply unfair, as plenty of gay people aren’t promiscuous and plenty of straight people are, but also likely useless (didn’t help for COVID) and of course impossible to implement.
There’s no need for any special reaction here. People who get it should seek treatment. Others should be aware of where it spreads and why, and take that into account in their own behavior. And, governments should stay out of it. That’s all that’s needed and would ensure everyone can get along.
Concealment of the truth as in the HIV epidemic in developed countries, is in no ones interests, least of all homosexuals.
Please don’t try to equate these serious sexually transmitted diseases with The Covid hoax. The true figures for MSM std rates have been available for decades and have been studiously concealed by the media and government due to political cowardice.
Although HIV rates are falling, they are still many times worse than amongst Heteros. Many other transmittable conditions continue to worsen.
The problem lies within the gay community where the lack of a social braking system of natural child production fails to keeps promiscuity in check……in general terms of course, as all men are naturally programmed to be promiscuous, but In recent times(last few hundred years), we require a sustainable social system.
How could Prof Heymann say with a straight face that during Covid there was ‘very little global collaboration, every country was trying different means of stopping infection’ really?? There were only global lockdowns, never done before and absent from any previous pandemic preparedness planning, global social distancing, along with all the ubiquitous floor stickers, posters and screens, global masking, despite little evidence of efficacy, attempted global vaccine mandates and the development of vaccine passports. I would say the response globally was the same not different!
The “COVID vaccine cannot turn into monkey pos” has to be one of the all time greats amongst strawman arguments
I have been sceptcal of the WHO since they got into bed with Big Pharma at turn of the century. Gilead Sciences was one company I have clear recollection of having seconded consultants to the organisation in 2001 for the development of pandemic response strategies. The WHO crowed about it in a press release at the time.
Interestingly, Gilead moved exclusively into vaccine manufacture by 2004. They came to my attention not long after when health systems around the world began stockpiling Tamiflu in preparation for the Avian ‘Flu epidemic. One trader of my acquaintance named her dog “Tami” having made a packet on the vaccine.
Since 2020 I have gone far beyond being merely sceptical.
Another ‘expert’ who mixes ‘looking after the health of people’ with ‘managing infectious illness’. Nobody make people healthy by managing illness. You make people healthy by providing useful education, freedom (=proper functioning legal systems), good living circumstances, non-industrial farmed food and non-toxic medicine that can be personalised.
Governments have a big task ahead: best not to hold our breaths…
HIV is called an STI but can pass through membranes, including eyes and throat, or any break in the skin allowing entrance into the blood. Splitting hairs, I think. Perhaps if HIV had been discovered now instead of the 1980s, it would not have been classified an STI. Sexual contact provides easier access because of friction (women being at higher risk, for example, because vaginal tissue is more vulnerable, being inside the body), and gay male contact even more so. It seems possible that HIV and monkey pox might use the same or very similar mechanisms, but authorities are scared to a) stigmatize those infected; b) cause non-male gay populations to have a false sense of security; and possibly c) have to re-classify HIV – a whole rats nest of its own. Just a thought.
After reading “The Real Anthony Fauci” I’m very suspicious of anyone who known for his AIDS research saying that there is not enough money being spent on monkeypox research. 40 years of AIDS research has produced nothing except a lot of well paid scientists and some rather toxic remedies.
Great interview. Well done Freddie
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