Monkeypox.. WHO announces new case numbers

Scientists in the UK in 1988 predicted monkeypox disease and said in a scientific report published at the time: “Over time the average size and duration of monkeypox epidemics will increase.”

At the time, monkeypox was so rare that health workers found only a few cases in West and Central Africa.

People were infected almost exclusively through contact with rodents, and then the virus spread to only a small number of people.

But scientists who are “foresighted,” as NPR put it, have warned that these sporadic cases will increase and spread geographically over time.

“In every article about past outbreaks of monkeypox, there is always a warning about how we should prepare for more outbreaks in the future,” infectious disease physician Bogoma Tetanji told US radio. from Emory University. “This prediction has already been proven.”

From 50 cases to 5 thousand!

In the 1990s, there were only about 50 cases of monkeypox per year in West and Central Africa, but this doubled thereafter.

In 2020, there were likely more than 5,000 cases, scientists reported.

Now, in 2022, the world is facing the first international outbreak of monkeypox, with more than 450 cases reported in some 20 countries.

Many scientists believe that no additional cases have been detected and it is possible that the virus is spreading in communities where monkeypox has not previously spread.

But how did scientists in London know in 1988 that the number of monkeypox infections would increase in the future?

Smallpox is one of the deadliest diseases in human history, with the highly contagious virus killing up to 30% of those infected.

In comparison, the current version of monkeypox kills less than 1% of those infected.

“What we are seeing now is the result of the greatest public health achievement, our ability to eradicate smallpox has doubled,” epidemiologist Anne Remoen of the University of California, Los Angeles told NPR.

“Thus, monkeypox, in all its iterations, is much less dangerous than the previous smallpox,” she added.

Thanks to a massive vaccination campaign, the world officially eradicated smallpox in 1980, an achievement that has saved millions of lives every year.

But as Remoen explains, the end of smallpox had repercussions, opening the door for monkeypox, perhaps all over the world.

“Of course we will see other viruses emerge to fill the void, and that is what we are seeing today,” she says.

Historical data

By the 1970s, the entire world population had some immunity to monkeypox, according to epidemiologist Jo Walker of the Yale School of Public Health, where most people were vaccinated against smallpox or survived the infection.

“Smallpox is a very old disease that infected most people at some point in their lives, mostly in childhood, or they were vaccinated, so in a way there was a lot of immunity in people against this family of viruses 40 years ago,” says Walker.

But in the late 1970s the world stopped vaccinating people against smallpox, as infections went down, so over the past four decades our immunity has gone down, which has made it easier for monkeypox to spread. .

“Over time, new babies were born, they didn’t get vaccinated, they didn’t get smallpox, many old people who were vaccinated against smallpox died or got infected, so our immunity went down” , Walker pointed out.

As a result, the global population now has very low immunity to monkeypox. “We’re actually at a point where human immunity to monkeypox is the lowest it’s been in thousands of years,” Walker says.

Thus, the epidemic in West Africa that would have been small in the 1990s is much larger today.

Since population immunity will not increase significantly in the near future, it is likely that the international spread of monkeypox will become more common over time.

There is now a vaccine for monkeypox, and vaccinating people who have been in contact with infected people can help stop transmission quickly.

Nevertheless, scientists fear that this virus could establish a permanent presence in Europe or North America, according to Raymond.

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