It’s been just under 100 days since the U.S. logged its first case of monkeypox in Boston on May 19. Since then, nearly 16,000 cases of the virus have been confirmed nationwide. More than 3,000 confirmed or suspected cases of monkeypox have been reported in California alone.
Monkeypox is not like COVID-19: It’s a familiar virus for which vaccines are already available and requires much closer contact to spread. Even so, a beleaguered U.S. public health system has struggled to contain the outbreak‚ a challenge that only grows with every new positive case.
The vast majority of cases reported in California and elsewhere have been among men who have sex with other men. But “there’s no reason, no biological reason, why they are the only risk group,” infectious-disease epidemiologist Maureen Miller told me last week. “And they’re not.”
I spoke with Miller, who is also a medical anthropologist at Columbia University, for a story that explores a major concern scientists have about monkeypox: that it will cross over from humans to other animals species, which would make it much harder to contain.
Before this outbreak, most human cases of the disease came from close contact with infected animals while farming, hunting or playing. Unlike smallpox, which exclusively infected humans, this particular orthopoxvirus is less discriminating in its choice of mammal host. Squirrels, prairie dogs, groundhogs and most likely many species of rats and mice can all be infected.
Read more at Los Angeles Times.