The U.S. leads the world in confirmed and suspected monkeypox cases, logging approximately 3,500 nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control. California has reported more than 400 confirmed or suspected cases, and they’re mostly clustered in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Vaccine access remains severely restricted, despite the World Health Organization categorizing the virus’ spread as a global health emergency. In June, the U.S. government let hundreds of thousands of doses sit in Denmark while the outbreak worsened.
“The outbreak that we're seeing is associated with the West African clade, which has a … fatality rate … between 1-4%. But it isn't just about mortality,” says Anne Rimoin, professor of epidemiology at UCLA. “People are suffering enormously with this. … It's very, very debilitating. It can result in very severe disease. … It's important not to minimize how painful and difficult it can be to go through.”
She adds that if the U.S. doesn’t invest in public health infrastructure, including the manpower to manage infectious disease threats, “we're going to be continuously put in this situation.”
“We will be constantly chasing behind outbreaks, epidemics, and pandemics if we don't learn this lesson. Our foundation is weak, and we need to shore it up.”
Rimoin emphasizes that this is not an endemic disease. “It's really important to talk about it in this sense because we really do have a moment to get in front of this. … Every minute matters.”
She says vaccines must be available to the highest risk group as soon as possible, testing must be easier to access and results produced more quickly, and clinicians must know how to get therapeutics to their patients.