Monkeypox cases are predominantly mild. The virus resembles smallpox but is generally less contagious and less severe. According to a senior scientist with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, monkeypox is not highly transmissible and is not likely to cause large outbreaks. Still, small outbreaks of monkeypox, which the CDC says can be killed on surfaces with common household disinfectants, are currently receiving increasing global attention. Highlighting the one confirmed case of monkeypox in the U.S., a CDC Media Statement released on Wednesday urged healthcare providers “to be alert for patients who have rash illnesses consistent with monkeypox, regardless of whether they have travel or specific risk factors for monkeypox and regardless of gender or sexual orientation.”
Fast-Changing Monkeypox Reporting
On Friday, with news about monkeypox rapidly evolving, Reuters reported the World Health Organization (WHO) called an emergency meeting to discuss the recent outbreaks of monkeypox. Reuters reports over 100 cases have been confirmed or suspected in Europe, which Germany described as the “largest outbreak in Europe ever.” Cases have been reported in eight European countries—including Italy, Belgium, France, Germany, Portugal, Sweden, and Spain. Cases have also been reported in Canada and Australia.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a smallpox drug for treating monkeypox on Thursday. Called TPOXX (tecovirimat), the oral form of the medicine is approved in the U.S., Canada, and Europe to treat smallpox. The European approval also includes the treatment of monkeypox, cowpox, and complications from vaccinia. Monkeypox is diagnosed based on the detection using real-time PCR tests of viral DNA specimens collected from the scabs or swabs of a patient’s lesions. It is unclear whether those testing positive for monkeypox received the COVID-19 “vaccine.”
“Somebody would reconstruct, say, a smallpox virus and have that spread, and that would not only kill millions, it could potentially kill billions” – Bill Gates on bioterrorism, 2017, PBS pic.twitter.com/oEJ1hyfsHT
— Siga Technologies (@SigaTech) September 22, 2021
TPOXX, manufactured by SIGA Technologies, Inc., has for years received funding and technical support from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), under the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR), within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). In 2013, the U.S. government bought enough of SIGA’s new smallpox medicine to treat two million people in the event of a bioterrorism attack.
According to a press release from SIGA, the IV formulation of TPOXX was cited in President Biden’s recent budget request as being used to treat a patient in the U.S. with monkeypox. In the “about” section of its website, SIGA has an entire page devoted to a quote from Bill Gates, where the vaccine-funder prophesizes:
“…the next epidemic could originate on the computer screen of a terrorist intent on using genetic engineering to create a synthetic version of the smallpox virus…”
Likewise, Newsweek reported Friday the U.S. government had ordered 13 million doses—$299 million worth—of a vaccine called JYNNEOS used to prevent smallpox and monkeypox. The order with the biotechnology company Bavarian Nordic, which makes the vaccine, will convert bulk vaccines, which have already been made and invoiced under prior contracts with the U.S. government, into freeze-dried versions to improve shelf-life by adding a supplement to the existing liquid. It’s expected the first doses will be manufactured by next year, with the rest to be made in 2024 and 2025. The CDC reports that the smallpox vaccine is 85% effective in preventing monkeypox.
The Spread of Monkeypox
Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins, said monkeypox had been more animal to humans in the past. Still, he explained it has always been known to spread among humans with close bodily contact. Reports have speculated the virus we are seeing now is sexually transmitted, as several people who tested positive for monkeypox were gay or bisexual men. Spain’s outbreak has been traced to a single sauna popular with gay men looking for sex.
While sexual transmission of monkeypox has never been documented, the disease has experienced “epidemiological changes in recent years.” According to a Wednesday health security update from Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, these changes include the age of those affected and the location of infections.
Monkeypox is a viral disease first discovered in 1958 among colonies of monkeys that were being kept for research. Cross-species transmission from animals to humans is possible through physical contact. The first human case was recorded in 1970. It is common in central and western Africa and is mainly found in Nigeria. There was a 40-year period without any reported case before it re-emerged there in 2017.
The last major monkeypox outbreak in the U.S. occurred in 2003, with 71 confirmed or suspected cases—mainly in Wisconsin, Indiana, and Illinois. The confirmed cases had contact with pet prairie dogs obtained from an animal distributor in suburban Chicago housed near Gambian giant rats and dormice from Ghana. No one died from this outbreak.
Symptoms of monkeypox in humans may include fever, headache, body aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, and exhaustion. Within a day or a few days of the fever, patients then develop a rash that spreads across the body. The illness tends to last for two to four weeks and has been shown to cause death in as many as 10 percent of people who catch it. Some experts believe the mortality risk of the strain currently making its way across the world is as low as only one percent.
Monkeypox Behind the Scenes
In a page titled ‘Biorisk Reduction‘ now unavailable on the WHO’s website—that was linked to a now unavailable page on monkeypox—the global organization heavily funded by Bill Gates discussed maintaining scientific knowledge regarding viral hemorrhagic fevers, epidemic-prone orthopoxviruses, and emerging severe zoonotic diseases affecting humans. Explaining how experience in staying prepared is gained, the WHO stated:
“Experience is gained through outbreak response, managing clinical and laboratory environments, networking with subject matter experts, and developing partnerships with stakeholders. Events can be of natural, accidental or deliberate origin; therefore, provision of specific knowledge and translated practices prepares responsible partners to address the unexpected.”
Currently, the smallpox vaccine is not recommended for the general public in the U.S. since smallpox has been eradicated. Indeed, routine smallpox vaccination among Americans stopped in 1972. However, the CDC has said health officials are prepared to use a vaccine for smallpox (or monkeypox) outbreaks. Noting monkeypox “is an emerging zoonotic disease recognized as the most important orthopoxvirus infection in humans in the smallpox post-eradication era,” a 2018 peer-reviewed article in Frontiers in Public Health declared, “The emergence of monkeypox as a significant human pathogen is indisputably a realistic scenario.”
Following that, a 2019 conference report of a meeting at Chatham House in London that appeared in Science Direct suggested an unintended consequence of smallpox eradication could be that “emergent or re-emergent human monkeypox might fill the epidemiological niche vacated by smallpox.” The article promoted increased funding for monkeypox, and the authors declared competing interests, including being tied to smallpox vaccine maker Bavarian Nordic.
In Nov. 2021, Bill Gates warned governments to prepare for smallpox terror attacks. At the time, Gates said countries like the U.S. and the U.K. must spend “tens of billions” to fund the research. Suggesting “germ-games” could include preparing for acts of bioterrorism such as smallpox attacks on airports. Gates commented:
“It’ll take probably about a billion a year for a pandemic Task Force at the WHO level, which is doing the surveillance and actually doing what I call ‘germ games’ where you practice.
You say, OK, what if a bioterrorist brought smallpox to 10 airports? You know, how would the world respond to that? There [are] naturally-caused epidemics and bioterrorism-caused epidemics that could even be way worse than what we experienced today.”