Another day, another horrifying threat to our very existence. Monkeypox, the latest instalment in the series of things that want to ruin our plans, has apparently evolved rapidly, to the point where the WHO has now labeled it a a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
So much so, that the US has announced that it will begin ramping up its rollout of a monkeypox vaccine to attempt to stop the spread and the impact of the disease. Hundreds of thousands of doses of the already existing vaccine will be shipped across the country in the coming months.
Those who are most at risk will receive the vaccines first, with much of the supply directed at areas with high case numbers.
The US currently has 306 cases of monkeypox, a viral infection normally found in parts of Africa that causes painful skin lesions.
The vaccine for monkeypox has been around for decades, however, the Danish biotech company Bavarian Nordic manufacture the only currently globally approved one. Their vaccine, known as Jynneos, is the one that the US is currently using. Both the US and the UK are ‘ring vaccinating’ close contacts of confirmed monkeypox cases in an effort to stop the spread of the disease.
Authorities are concerned about the disease, as a new study in Nature Medicine reports that the strain of the virus currently on the rise is a mutation of a strain that caused an outbreak in Nigeria in 2018-2019. This newer strain appears to have “far more mutations than would be expected,” including several that increase its transmissibility.
As of July 19, there have been 41 confirmed cases of the disease in Australia. Twenty-two of those are in NSW, whilst another 15 of them are in Victoria. There are also two cases in the ACT, one in South Australia, and one in Queensland.
Vaccinations are being offered to those who may have been close contacts and authorities are keeping an eye on the situation closely, even though it doesn’t appear to be too alarming at this stage.
Raina MacIntyre, Professor of Global Biosecurity at UNSW, has written that “mass vaccination is not recommended” in Australia for monkeypox, but that targeted vaccinations should be given to high-risk populations like healthcare workers.
She also states that although there are no specific treatments for the disease, we do have medications developed to treat the now eradicated smallpox that are effective against monkeypox.
Monitoring and further research into how the virus is spreading appear to be the next steps that are being taken, with the top priority being to stem the spread. For now though, there’s no need to rush out and get vaccinated unless you believe you may have been exposed to someone with the virus.