How concerned should you be about monkeypox? An expert weighs in

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Monkeypox vaccine , to be released from national stockpile, for high-risk’ people, CDC says.On May 23, the CDC reported that there has been one confirmed and four suspected cases of monkeypox in the United States.As a result, a vaccine will be released from the nation's stockpile for high-risk individuals.I can report that there has been a request for release of the Jynneos vaccine from the National Stockpile for some of the high-risk contacts of some of the early patients, so that is actively happening right now, Dr. Jennifer McQuiston, deputy director of the Division of High Consequence Pathogens and Pathology within the CDC's National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, via CNN.The U.S. reportedly has a "good stock" of the vaccine.Right now, we have over 1,000 doses of that available, and we expect that level to ramp up very quickly in the coming weeks as the company provides more doses to us, Dr. Jennifer McQuiston, deputy director of the Division of High Consequence Pathogens and Pathology within the CDC's National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, via CNN.McQuiston said there's another smallpox vaccine, ACAM2000, that could provide protection against monkeypox.The U.S. has more than 100 million doses of that vaccine.ACAM2000 is an older-generation smallpox vaccine that has some potential significant side effects with it. So a decision to use that widely would have to have some serious discussion behind it, Dr. Jennifer McQuiston, deputy director of the Division of High Consequence Pathogens and Pathology within the CDC's National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, via CNN.We are hoping to maximize vaccine distribution to those that we know would benefit from it. Those are people who've had contact with a known monkeypox patients, health care workers, very close personal contact, and those in particular who might be at high risk for severe disease, Dr. Jennifer McQuiston, deputy director of the Division of High Consequence Pathogens and Pathology within the CDC's National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, via CNN

While outbreaks of monkeypox have occurred before, none has been this large

Health officials are investigating the monkeypox outbreak to determine if the virus acquired a mutation that makes it more transmissible or if superspreader events in Europe might be to blame for the current outbreak.

“Anytime the virus does something new, it catches our attention,” said Dr. Richard Kennedy, co-director of Mayo Clinic’s Vaccine Research Group.

ExploreWhat is monkeypox and where is it spreading?

Monkeypox is endemic in Central Africa. While outbreaks of monkeypox have occurred before, none has been this large.

“This is a larger outbreak, both in terms of case numbers and the geographic spread. Now we’re trying to figure out if there is something new with the virus. It’s a DNA virus, so it doesn’t mutate as fast as RNA viruses, like influenza and SARS-CoV-2. But DNA viruses do change,” Kennedy said.

Monkeypox is a rare infection that begins with flu-like symptoms followed by a distinctive rash. The rash initially consists of flat patches, then progresses to raised nodules and then to vesicles, with one or two days in each phase. The final stage of pus-filled blisters can last five to seven days.

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In this Centers for Disease Control and Prevention handout graphic, symptoms of one of the first known cases of the monkeypox virus are shown on a patient's hand on June 5, 2003. (CDC/Getty Images/TNS)

Credit: TNS

In this Centers for Disease Control and Prevention handout graphic, symptoms of one of the first known cases of the monkeypox virus are shown on a patient's hand on June 5, 2003. (CDC/Getty Images/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Combined ShapeCaption
In this Centers for Disease Control and Prevention handout graphic, symptoms of one of the first known cases of the monkeypox virus are shown on a patient's hand on June 5, 2003. (CDC/Getty Images/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Human-to-human spread of the virus occurs by direct contact with an infected person’s skin or that person’s secretions. Transmission is limited to close household contacts or health care workers not wearing personal protective equipment. People with monkeypox are infectious to others from the onset of fever until all lesions scab over.

While monkeypox can be fatal, the infection will be mild and clear up after a few weeks for most people, Kennedy said. He added the overall risk for the public is low, and it’s not something people should be too concerned about at this time.

“Now that everybody is aware of it, health authorities all over the world are looking for it. So if people develop symptoms, instead of trying to figure out what this is — going through sort of the usual suspects — now we can immediately jump right to let’s check and see if this is monkeypox and isolate these people, and then trying to identify people they’ve come into contact with,” he said.

Vaccines can prevent infection, and treatments are available for those who are exposed or become infected.

“The smallpox vaccine does provide protection against monkeypox. So there are countermeasures available,” Kennedy added. “There’s a vaccine available. It’s not going to be widely available because there are contraindications for it. And a lot of people — at least a third of the U.S. — either has a contraindication or lives with someone who has a contraindication. So you’re not going to see widespread — everybody get vaccinated. There’s no need.”

Smallpox vaccines effectively prevent monkeypox if given before or within a few days of infection.

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