WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — As more presumptive cases of monkeypox continue to pop up around the country, including in Florida, there have been a lot of comparisons to COVID-19. But health officials say monkeypox isn’t a new disease, and it hasn’t changed since the last outbreak nearly two decades ago.
Dr. Raj Panjabi, the White House senior director for Global Health Security and Biodefense, is leading the United States’ response to monkeypox. Even though it’s spreading across the world, he says our country can handle it.
“The risk from this disease to the general public is low,” Dr. Panjabi said. “It’s not like COVID where you do have significant spread among people who may not have symptoms. This spreads only when you have symptoms.”
Monkeypox symptoms include a rash with boils, as well as fever, aches and swollen lymph nodes. Dr. Panjabi says the disease is rarely deadly, and patients usually recover within a month without being hospitalized.
“The great majority actually don’t have requirements for treatment because they have mild conditions,” he said.
Still, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is asking doctors to look for and report cases. Dr. Panjabi urges patients to do the same.
“So they get the care they need and that we vaccinate those who are exposed to them so that we prevent the infection in others,” he explained.
Panjabi expects the U.S. to report more monkeypox cases in the coming days. President Joe Biden says the country should have plenty of vaccines and treatments on hand.
“I think we do have enough to deal with the likelihood of the problem,” the president said. “But I think people should be careful.”
Dr. Panjabi stresses that monkeypox has not changed since the last outbreak in the U.S. nearly 20 years ago. There were a few dozen cases in that outbreak. According to the CDC, they all became ill after contact with pet prairie dogs.
“All of those patients fully recovered,” Dr. Panjabi said.
Doctors leading the global response to the disease are hopeful of a similar outcome with this outbreak.
“This outbreak can still be contained,” World Health Organization Smallpox Secretariat Head Dr. Rosamund Lewis said.
The WHO says it’s monitoring more than 250 confirmed and suspected cases. The leading theory for the recent outbreaks is two raves in Spain and Belgium.