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As White House declares monkeypox an emergency, Yale professor says the virus is 'not a general risk' to people - Harvey Risch

Kitco News

(Kitco News) - The White House on Thursday declared monkeypox to be a public health emergency. Last month, Dr. Tedros, head of the World Health Organization (WHO), stated that monkeypox is a global pandemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 6,600 Americans have the illness, which can cause fever, swollen lymph nodes, and blisters.

California, New York City, and Illinois have declared states of emergency in response to the virus.

Harvey Risch, Emeritus Professor of Epidemiology at Yale University, said that monkeypox is not a risk to the wider population, since it is largely confined within particular communities.

"It is spreading globally, but… it's not a risk to people as a whole," he explained.

"Just like COVID was really only a risk for elderly people or people with high-risk comorbidities like obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease, and so on. But for everybody else, it was a discomfort and could be really unpleasant, but not life-threatening."

Risch spoke with David Lin, Anchor and Producer at Kitco News.

Monkeypox explained

Monkeypox is related to smallpox, a disease with a 30% case fatality rate. However, Risch said that monkeypox is a much milder illness.

"Monkeypox is similar to smallpox," he explained. "However, it is a much milder, less aggressive form of infection than smallpox, although there is some overlap. That is why smallpox vaccines even have some benefit against monkeypox."

The current strain of monkeypox, which is believed to have originated from West Africa, has a case fatality rate of 1%, which is like that of COVID. However, monkeypox is far less infectious than coronaviruses.

"[Monkeypox] is not spread through casual contact, it's not spread through the air generally," said Risch. "[The CDC] says it takes prolonged face-to-face contact in order to spread it, which means casual conversation is not enough… [What is needed] is contact with infected materials."

Although a vaccine exists for monkeypox, Risch said that it should not be made mandatory.

"First of all, the smallpox vaccine has overlapping effectiveness against monkeypox," he explained. "Second, most people of older ages were vaccinated against smallpox, at least in North America. And thirdly, there are medications like TPoxx that treat monkeypox pretty effectively. There are two or three others as well."

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Lockdowns for monkeypox?

Risch, who was critical of COVID lockdowns, said that lockdowns and restrictions should not be used to fight monkeypox.

When asked whether he thought lockdowns for monkeypox would come, Risch responded, "I would hope not. I think it would be disruptive and foolish and against scientific evidence to do things like that. Those measures were counterproductive in the first place with COVID, and they will be doubly so with monkeypox."

To find out Risch's thoughts on COVID lockdowns and vaccines, and mathematical modeling, watch the above video.

Follow David Lin on Twitter: @davidlin_TV

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