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Should We Be Worried After WHO Declared Monkey Pox A Public Health Emergency?

I’m going to preface this answer with a short anecdote on COVID-19. Sometime in the latter part of January of 2020, I was having lunch with a colleague at work. He was born in China but moved to Canada some 20 years ago to pursue an advanced degree in plant virology and although I am a food microbiologist, he joined my group in 2018. So we were just discussing what was going on in Wuhan over lunch and he was mentioning some of the things that he was hearing in unofficial channels via his friends. There were some worrisome signs, but at the same time, any thought of a worldwide pandemic seemed extremely remote. Yet here we are, two and a half years later.

The pandemic seems like it’s over only it really isn’t. We have to be extremely thankful for the fact that at least vaccines largely staved off the worst of the pandemic, in the US the level of daily COVID-19 deaths has been reduced ten fold from thousands to hundreds. Things have more or less stabilized but we’ve had to normalize the number of people currently dying each day at levels that were horrifying two years ago. The reality is that we’re all sick and tired of COVID-19 and we’ve resumed life in spite of the fact that SARS-CoVid-2 is still with us. There are still lots of cases, there are still lots of people being hospitalized, and there are still lots of people dying. But we are tired of it. So in spite of it all, everyone is traveling, everyone is back to attending large group events, and the majority of people aren’t masking (even when attending indoor group events). There is a wide availability of at-home tests but we’re not really using them judiciously.

The monkey pox

So far, monkey pox should not be something that we should panic about. Public health officials are trying to raise the level of awareness (and frankly, the level of seriousness with which this emerging threat is being treated) to try and nip this in the bud. Containment of this epidemic should be considerably easier now, having just gone through COVID-19. I think that there was every reason to believe that with people being careful due to COVID-19 this would translate into monkey pox fizzling out. Instead, our pandemic fatigue means that the virus has been able to spread much more efficiently than it should have. The same relaxed attitude that we’ve taken with regards to COVID-19 is precisely the reason that monkey pox started spreading among networks of people who were clearly not physically distancing. Monkey pox is primarily transmitted via close physical contact, it is not an airborne respiratory virus. Monkey pox may be transmitted via droplets but these don’t really hang in the air, unlike bioaerosols. Most people are symptomatic and people tend to be infectious once they have symptoms. On all of these dimensions, monkey pox is much less transmissible than SARS-CoV-2. We even have existing vaccines (although supply is limited). This virus should be much more contained than it is.

And yet here we are. Public health officials are concerned about monkey pox, and justly so — they have to worry about populations, not individual people. But most individuals are not going to be exposed to the monkey pox virus. Many people who have caught the virus thus far were in high risk groups, to begin with. But it does pay to be aware of risks and to try to mitigate them. Take the same precautions you should be taking with COVID-19 and you should be fine.

Images source: Google

Content created and supplied by: ghananewstoday (via Opera News )

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