As the monkeypox outbreak slowly spreads, people should remain “humble” about what they know and don’t know about the disease, experts said at a Yale panel on Thursday.
“We’re not looking at the start of another COVID-19 pandemic, but things can be significantly impactful even without getting to that level,” said Saad Omer, the director of the Yale Institute for Global Health, at the Global Health Conversation Series panel.
As of June 8, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports there are no confirmed monkeypox cases in Connecticut. Yet, there are cases in neighboring states: one confirmed case in Massachusetts and nine confirmed cases in New York.
Monkeypox is caused by a virus related to the smallpox virus, according to the CDC. Many people who contract monkeypox have mild symptoms.
Omer said that the situation still needs to be monitored and recommendations of preventing monkeypox are subject to change in the near future.
Anne Rimoin, a professor at UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, said there are many things that need to be done to be prepared for the outbreak. She said experts should have an understanding of situational awareness.
“The most important thing is to be humble about what we know what we don’t know,” Rimoin said. “Because what we know is really about how this virus has been spreading traditionally and in a very different epidemiological and ecological landscape.”
“I think that it’s one of these things if you’re staring into the dark, you might not see anything,” Rimoin said. “But if you turn all the lights on, you’re going to see a lot more.”
Rimoin said diagnostic capability is very important at a local level. People need to be able to have access to tests for monkeypox if they are showing symptoms.
Dr. Nathan Grubaugh, associate professor at Yale School of Public Health, said that there is broad “family-level” testing available in “more than 60 labs across all 50 US states”. This means, if you test positive at a lab, samples would be sent to the CDC for confirmations that one is indeed positive.
Akiko Iwasaki, professor at Yale School of Medicine, said that she doesn’t think there is a need for people to go out and get vaccinated just yet. But those who are already vaccinated may be at an advantage.
“We can expect a significant level of protection against disease in those who have been previously vaccinated with the Vaccinia Vaccines,” Iwasaki said. “Hopefully, the same kind of protection would apply for monkeypox.”
Rimoin said it is important for experts to continue to research and learn more about monkeypox.
“We pay the price every single time that we don’t invest in disease surveillance, [or] lab surveillance in this kind of infrastructure,” Rimoin said.