Monkeypox unlikely to be the next plague, health official says
Monkeypox isn’t likely to become the next coronavirus-like plague, although the rising number of cases warrants further examination, the state health commissioner said on Tuesday.
Dr. Mary T. Bassett told a meeting of business and nonprofit leaders in Melville that the presence of monkeypox in the United States, Europe, Australia and Israel is troubling because previous outbreaks were largely confined to western and central Africa. Researchers are examining how the virus is spreading and connections between the people who are sick in more than a dozen countries, she said.
Bassett reported that one case has been identified in New York State. That case involves a New York City resident, according to a news release Friday.
"This is an unusual situation, one where there’s appropriate levels of concern," Bassett said, "but not one in which we pandemic-weary people should feel like we’re in for another plague.”
Separately, in Switzerland on Tuesday, the World Health Organization said more than 250 monkeypox cases have been reported in at least 16 countries.
Monkeypox is related to smallpox, the only virus to have been largely eradicated through vaccination.
Typically, monkeypox causes fever, chills and rash and lesions on the body, including the face and genitals. It is spread through close contact, and some of the recent cases involve men who said they had sex with other men, according to the WHO.
No deaths have been reported in the United States or internationally so far from the current outbreak.
Bassett said the largest previous wave of monkeypox in the United States involved under 50 cases in 2003. They were traced to imported rodents from west Africa infecting domesticated prairie dogs that then passed the virus to their human owners.
Monkeypox virus was first identified in 1958 in laboratory monkeys, followed by the first human case in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, according to the WHO.
“I expect there to be more cases identified, but I’m hopeful that this will remain a condition affecting hundreds. … As you know, we’re counting COVID-19 transmissions in the millions,” Bassett told about 50 people at the meeting of the Long Island Association’s health, education and nonprofit committee.
Of monkeypox, she said, “This is a virus for which we have a vaccine and for which we have treatment.”