Warnings of Monkeypox Outbreak Were Ignored for Years, Reports Washington Post

Friday August 12, 2022

A sign urges the release of the monkeypox vaccine during a protest in San Francisco, July 18, 2022.
A sign urges the release of the monkeypox vaccine during a protest in San Francisco, July 18, 2022.  (Source:Associated Press)

Warnings about the possibility of monkeypox becoming a crisis were raised over the past decade from two different sources, but were ignored, the Washington Post reported on August 12.

The first came in 2010 when researchers "reported the rate of monkeypox cases in the Democratic Republic of Congo had increased twentyfold from the 1980s to the mid-2000s." The report warned that not addressing the disease "could cost the world a chance 'to combat [the virus] while its geographic range is limited.' "†The report was written by epidemiologist Anne Rimoin from the University of California at Los Angeles and her co-authors†in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The second came in late 2017, when Nigerian health authorities confirmed the country's first case in almost 40 years: An 11-year-old boy brought to a hospital with lesions across his face and limbs — a suspected case of chickenpox. The doctors treating the boy realized he was suffering from something different than chickenpox and that they were dealing with more than an isolated case: Two relatives had similar symptoms. The doctors diagnosed the boy has having monkeypox and alerted authorities.

"Their†published report†two years later concluded the virus was spreading from person to person, not just from animals to humans," writes the Washington Post. "And it appeared to be transmitting in a potentially dangerous new way — through sexual contact. Most†of the infected were young men, compared to previous monkeypox outbreaks in the region that had largely affected children."

Of the 2017 outbreak, the World Health Organization wrote: "The nature of person-to-person contact leading to transmission needs to be studied; some suspect sexual transmission may be one route."

The Washington Post continues: "But the broader health community took little notice. Within eight months of Ogoina's report, the novel coronavirus was overshadowing virtually all other global health concerns as it circled the globe."

The Nigerian cases are said to be the origin of the current outbreak. They only received serious interest until this spring, when monkeypox spread to dozens of other countries in the West, including the United States. By then, the world's inattention had left two clades, or types†of the virus, smoldering: The West African version that Ogoina encountered in Nigeria now reproducing globally,†with less than 1 percent mortality;†and the more severe Congo Basin version, with about 10 percent mortality. In the United States, with more than 10,760 confirmed cases, largely among gay and bisexual men, there have been no monkeypox-related deaths," adds the Washington Post.

"We should have listened to people like Dimie Ogoina who was saying, 'This is circulating, and it seems to be circulating to a large degree through sexual transmission,' " said Michael Worobey, head of the department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Arizona, who is now collaborating with Ogoina on monkeypox research. "We should have been stamping it out where it was circulating before it emerged."

This information comes after weeks of reporting on how federal officials and local health care organizations dropped the ball on controlling the spread of monkeypox in the early days of its spread. "A series of crucial mistakes in the rollout of†the monkeypox vaccine has significantly inhibited America's ability to distribute doses and prevent the troubling and in some cases extremely painful disease from becoming endemic," wrote NBC News in July.

"More than 10,000 Americans have now tested positive in the†monkeypox outbreak†across the U.S., according to figures published late Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as federal health officials say they are still racing to contain the virus," reports CBS News on August 11