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Is Monkeypox The Next Pandemic?

Posted on 24th May 2022

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After more than two years of the Covid-19 pandemic, which is clearly far from over, people are understandably worried about the outbreak of monkeypox now hitting Europe and the USA. Well, there is good news and bad news.

Good News

The WHO says that monkeypox outbreaks are containable, according to this report on the BBC. This is partly based on historical data on the infectiousness of monkeypox among humans (in past outbreaks it was not very infectious to humans), and partly because the smallpox virus is similar to the monkeypox virus, so that our stocks of smallpox vaccine will offer at least partial protection.

Bad News

The current outbreak is a mutation of standard monkeypox, which is transmitted through sexual contact, according to this article on Forbes. This seems to be making it more infectious; only time well tell how much more infectious.

Smallpox was declared by the WHO to have been eradicated in 1980. Since then, no more smallpox vaccine has been made, and the vaccination campaign has ended. This means that currently 70% of the world population is no longer protected against smallpox, because they are too young or were missed in the vaccination campaign, and there are probably insufficient stocks to vaccinate all these people. It may take quite some time to make more smallpox vaccine, or to develop a new vaccine specifically for monkeypox. There is also currently no data about the effectiveness of the smallpox vaccine against this new variant of monkeypox.

What Should We Do?

There a couple of things that you can do to protect yourself:

  1. Practice safe sex;
  2. If you go to Africa be sure not to eat bushmeat.

And yes, until there is more data, you should probably worry (a little), but, currently, it seems there is little chance of lockdowns and new travel restrictions due to monkeypox.