Photo: Getty
  /  07.27.2022

Over the weekend, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the monkeypox outbreak a global emergency. The designation signifies that WHO considers monkeypox a significant enough threat to the global population that its organizers have coordinated international response efforts. The announcement of the rare disease, caused by the transmission of a monkeypox virus infection, initially returned to the United States last summer. The preceding monkeypox disease cases date back to April 2003, after a shipment of roughly 800 animals arrived in Texas from Ghana.

In the aftermath of this decade’s first American case, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) documented that they “and the Texas Department of State Health Services confirmed on July 15, 2021, a case of human monkeypox in a U.S. citizen who traveled from Nigeria to the United States on two commercial flights. CDC supported state and local health officials to identify more than 200 people who had possible contact with the patient.” At large, these observations were overwhelmed in the media by persisting COVID-19 protocol reports. 

Within two weeks of 2021’s human monkeypox verification, Everyday Health registered, “The infected man — who is believed to be the first monkeypox case in the United States since 2003 — was admitted to [the] hospital and is reportedly in a stable condition, and so far no new cases have been identified. The Texas Department of State Health Services emphasizes that the illness does not currently present a risk to the general public.” This subsequent statement was debatably short-sighted. Jennifer Horney, a founding director and professor at the University of Delaware’s epidemiology program, responded to the digital platform, saying, “Monkeypox remains extremely rare in the United States … A large 47-person outbreak of monkeypox impacted the United States in 2003, [which] traced back to contact with exotic mammals that were being kept as pets.” Further, while the continent Africa is widely publicized as the ailment’s place of origin, the latter particulars from the 2003 outbreak are not revealed as frequently. 

For example, the same week as the Everyday Health announcement (July 30, 2021), headlines regarding President Biden’s frustration with top-circulated newspapers such as The New York Times and The Washington Post emerged. The last mentioned publication printed a story titled, “CDC study shows three-fourths of people infected in Massachusetts’ coronavirus outbreak were vaccinated but few required hospitalization.” Subsequently, The New York Post wrote, “A spokesman for the Biden administration’s COVID-19 response team bashed both [The] New York Times and [The] Washington Post … for alarmist tweets about the data that led the [CDC] to recommend the re-imposition of mask mandates.” Presently, increasing online perspectives speculate that information regarding another viral disease would have discouraged the populace from returning to their respective notions of normalcy. 

What is not open to hypotheses’ is the medical characterization of the fast-spreading condition. As per Brittanica, monkeypox affects “both animals and humans [and] causes symptoms similar to those of smallpox, though less severe. [The viral disease] is transmitted by the monkeypox virus, a member of the same virus family that causes smallpox and cowpox. Monkeypox was first identified in laboratory monkeys in 1958.” In accordance, WHO logged, “Human monkeypox was first identified in humans in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in a 9-month-old boy in a region where smallpox had been eliminated in 1968. Since then, most cases have been reported from rural rainforest regions of the Congo Basin … and human cases have increasingly been reported from across central and west Africa … human cases of monkeypox have been reported in 11 African countries.” The contagious ailment’s incubation period is approximately two weeks or less.

Against its earliest cases, The Associated Press has verified monkeypox patients in over 70 countries worldwide. The news outlet’s London branch recorded, “Globally … no deaths reported beyond Africa, which has seen roughly 1,400 cases and 60 deaths this year.” On average, monkeypox recovery takes anywhere from two weeks to a month. Further, before the disease’s visible indicators arrive, others may, such as fevers, headaches, and flu-like symptoms. Lesions are the most common manifestation of the viral disease. However, The American Medical Association Alliance (AMA) has specified additional signs, including the “swelling of the lymph nodes.” 

The CDC’s “Monkeypox Symptoms” page also lists:

  • Muscle aches and backache 

  • Chills

  • Exhaustion

  • A rash that can look like pimples or blisters that appears on the face, inside the mouth, and on other parts of the body, like the hands, feet, chest, genitals, or anus.

In contrast, following our nation’s first monkeypox patient last year, CNN’s associate health section’s piece acknowledged, “…local health officials in Dallas … are investigating … Travelers on [the monkeypox carrier’s] flights were required to wear masks as well as in the U.S. airports due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.” At this point, there was no medical mention of a person’s sexual orientation threatening their wellness. The New York Times now offers distinguishable arguments touching major municipalities’ health departments, such as New York City, saying: 

“The spread of monkeypox has ignited a debate … over whether [or not public messaging] should encourage gay men [and bisexuals] to reduce their number of sexual partners during this summer’s outbreak … officials are battling … as the number of monkeypox cases has nearly tripled in the last week, nearly all of them among men who have sex with men. A few epidemiologists say the city should be encouraging gay men to temporarily change their sexual behavior while the disease spreads, while other officials argue that approach would stigmatize gay men and would backfire.”

Suggestions such as the elimination of kissing during intercourse and the covering of sores have since been indicated by separate healthcare administrators to the publication, equating to grander division among medical professionals. LGBTQ+ magazines such as them have added to this conversation. The latter outlet has since composed, “Monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted disease — it is spread by very close contact — and just because an illness affects a population, does not mean that population should be blamed.” Similarly, NBC recorded the chronologies of how human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) — illnesses that can affect any sexual orientation or gender identity — were commonly referenced as “the gay plague” in the earliest stages of the HIV and AIDS epidemic.

The United Nations (UN) clarified that monkeypox is a disease that can affect anyone and encouraged “media outlets, governments, and communities to respond with a rights-based, evidence-based approach that avoids stigma.” More often than not, monkeypox spreads through skin-to-skin contact, respiratory droplets, or the exchange of bodily fluids. Scientific American digitally examined how monkeypox “has largely been found in Western and Central Africa in the last few decades. And while it is endemic there in rodents, several African countries have developed excellent public health practices to minimize outbreaks among humans, which Europeans and North Americans have largely neglected.” 

Further, antiretrovirals and pharmaceutical vaccinations are more difficult to come by in some regions of Africa, as Black populations are underserved and often excluded in comparison to nations with a privileged majority. The National Library of Medicine abstracted that “…the nation (South Africa) remains beset with inequities in education, life skills, and socioeconomic conditions, further complicated by diversities in culture.” Their point is one example among an abundance of imbalances regarding vital resources and non-white communities. 

Domestically, updates on monkeypox cases in the United States are now extended to children. Reuters validated that “… a toddler in California and an infant who is not a [citizen contracted monkeypox] … The two cases are unrelated and are likely the result of household transmission.” Measures to curb monkeypox’s effects have been achieved. Two associated vaccines were approved by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA): ACAM2000 and JYNNEOS. The Biden-⁠Harris Administration’s Monkeypox Outbreak Response page states, “Collectively, the Administration’s efforts aim to expand vaccination for individuals at risk and make testing more convenient for healthcare providers and patients across the country.” An outlined tactical nationwide plan has yet to be finalized.




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