Concerns of monkeypox rising

Despite the nightmare that is the coronavirus having been on top of everyone’s concerns for the past few years, monkeypox has emerged this summer as the newest health crisis. 

Monkeypox was first discovered in the late 1950s and is a relative to the smallpox virus. Like its distant cousin, monkeypox is rarely fatal, and its symptoms are much milder. 

In addition to its flu-like symptoms, monkeypox also causes the formation of rashes that initially start flat but eventually fill with liquid. These bumps and rashes either fall off or disappear throughout the recovery process, but can possibly result in permanent scarring if constantly prodded at.

Outbreaks of the virus have occurred in the United States and United Kingdoms before, but remained small in size and were quickly contained. 

On Aug. 4, the Biden Administration officially declared monkeypox a public health emergency. The announcement came nearly a month after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared it an international concern in July, following reports of two underaged infections by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

There have only been five total cases of monkeypox in children under 18 out of the 7,000 confirmed cases in the country, 1,349 of those cases being in LA County. Although the virus primarily spreads through intimate contact, it can also spread through contact with infectious lesions and items that have encountered said lesions.

Availability for the two-dose vaccine has been extremely limited, so officials warn against widespread vaccinations. Only those who believe they are exposed to certain health or risk factors are recommended to pursue vaccination. 

According to various health experts, the virus is very unlikely to cause a repeat of early 2019, when schools were forced to go online. The current outbreak is much smaller compared to the coronavirus, and it is improbable for the disease to spread through brief incidental contact. Many public health experts gauge that public spaces will remain open due to the low risk of infection, including chief medical officer for the LA Department of Public Health Dr. Rita Singhal. 

“I want to emphasize that the risk of monkeypox in the general population remains low,” Singhal said in a Los Angeles Times article. “The risk of spread is minimal from attending an event with fully clothed people.”

For those concerned about the virus being classified as a public health emergency, the declaration was only made to simplify the process of federal officials directing resources to vaccines and disease prevention. 

“We are applying lessons learned from the battles we’ve fought—from COVID response to wildfires to measles—and will tackle this outbreak with the urgency this moment demands,” White House National Monkeypox Response Coordinator Robert Fenton said via a statement posted on the US Health and Human Services website.