This audio is auto-generated. Please let us know if you have feedback.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. When the monkeypox outbreak emerged in May, public health officials were reassuring: There were vaccines and treatments in the Strategic National Stockpile, the virus was considered “very stable” and not likely to mutate as much as RNA viruses like COVID-19, and the outbreak seemed “containable.”
But in a healthcare system already pushed to the brink by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, testing for the virus lagged, vaccine supplies quickly became constrained and access barriers to the one available treatment on the market —Tpoxx — have left many patients painfully in the lurch.
Last week, the Biden administration appointed Robert Fenton and Dr. Demetre Daskalakis to coordinate the White House’s response to monkeypox as advocate groups have ramped up pressure on the government to more aggressively fight the outbreak. Both are apt choices for the task. Fenton is a longtime emergency response official with FEMA and Daskalakis has led infectious disease responses in New York City. According to The New York Times, Daskalakis also has a long history as a gay health activist, a population that, so far, has borne the brunt of the outbreak. That aspect of the outbreak could soon change.
In a recent media statement, an analyst with GlobalData warned that monkeypox is headed in a direction that now appears less clear.
“Recent changes to the mode of transmission and disease presentation of monkeypox in the current outbreak are alarming as the disease has transformed into something which experts are experienced in and prepared for, to a situation that is now less predictable and not yet fully understood — potentially due to new viral mutations,” Nancy Jaser, a pharma analyst with GlobalData, said in the release.
In addition to possible mutations, Jaser warned that different modes of transmission could help the virus continue its grim march around the world.
“Currently, most infections are seen within the men who have sex with men population and is spread primarily via human-to-human transmission. However, anyone can catch the disease, regardless of their sexual preferences, as the virus can spread through skin-to-skin contact and contaminated bedding or clothing,” Jaser stated.
Here’s a look at where the outbreak stands, by the numbers.
The ‘alarming’ spread of monkeypox — By the numbers
Reported cases in the U.S. as of Monday, according to the CDC.
Doses of the sole approved monkeypox vaccine, made by Bavarian Nordic, that the U.S. government is now distributing. Health officials estimate that 3.5 million are needed to combat the outbreak, and the next shipment from Bavarian for half a million doses is not expected until October.
Doses of the monkeypox vaccine the U.S. once had on hand in the national stockpile. But as they expired, the U.S. failed to re-up its supply and most of these doses were tossed.
Over $1 billion
The U.S. government’s investment in the development and production of Bavarian’s monkeypox vaccine.
1 in 10
The fatality rate estimated by the WHO for the Congo Basin strain of monkeypox — one of the deadliest strains of the virus.
1 in 100
The fatality rate for the West African strain of monkeypox, which accounts for most of the cases in the current outbreak, according to GlobalData. The patients at the highest risk of becoming seriously ill or dying are children under 8, patients who are immunocompromised, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding and patients with eczema, the CDC says.
The rate of human-to-human transmission of monkeypox prior to the current outbreak. Previously, most reported cases arose from animal-to-human contact, according to GlobalData.
The number of monkeypox cases among children that have been reported globally, according to a recent WHO press briefing last week. The global health agency said the spread to children has mostly been through household contact and that it is monitoring the situation “extremely closely.”
The value of procurement orders SIGA Technologies has received this summer from several international jurisdictions for Tpoxx, which has been approved by the FDA under the compassionate use program and was approved in June by the U.K. In an emailed statement, SIGA’s CEO, Phillip Gomez, and CSO, Dennis Hruby, said that the company is working with global regulators to “advance randomized clinical trials” of Tpoxx in monkeypox patients and that a study by the NIAID evaluating its safety and efficacy is expected to start “within weeks.”