5 Reasons Why Monkeypox Won’t Be as Big a Problem as Covid-19

Alwyn Lau
3 min readMay 30, 2022

Summarizing some info/news on the dreaded Monkey pox(!!) to offer some (initial) assurance on why we needn’t panick (yet), especially when we compare it to Covid.

1. Unlike Covid which threatened the ELDERLY, for monkeypox a majority of senior citizens are already protected (via the smallpox vax).

Monkeypox disease is a sibling (or cousin?) to smallpox. So that means: high fevers, muscle aches, Godzilla-sized lymph nodes (this is like the key trait of monkeypox), pus-filled rashes, etc.

The good news is that smallpox vaccination (which ripped smallpox to non-existence by 1980) provided SOME measure of protection against monkeypox too.

Buuut herein lies the problem. Since a majority of folks vaccinated against smallpox are today in their 50s and beyond, this means younger folks who haven’t been vaxxed could be in trouble. Nevertheless, having older folks protected and younger folks at risk (instead of the other way round) is generally better news.

2. Unlike Covid, monkeypox is only infectious among those who are already symptomatic i.e. there isn’t any asymptomatic spread, transmission is difficult and ‘positive’ individuals can be quickly isolated, treated, etc. bcos they can be easily identified. Rash and skin eruptions can be seen on the hands, feet and face (see pic).

Fun fact: somehow the rashes are less prevalent on the midbody, chest, etc. Dunno why.

3. Unlike Covid, monkeypox can’t spread via small respiratory droplets. It spreads via large droplets and, most of all, via skin-to-skin contact — so overall it much less ‘stealthy’ than Covid.

Strangely enough, today it’s spreading predominantly among gay men. This is merely a statistical public health fact; how we choose to interpret is another matter entirely (I’d go with less stigma, more compassion, etc.).

Note too that in 30% of historical cases, monkeypox rashes are seen in genitalia which has also raised the issue of whether it should be classified as an STD (I believe the answer is No).

#2 and #3, coupled with the smallpox vaccine, has ensured that the R0 for monkeypox has been less than 1 historically.

4. Unlike Covid, monkeypox is less prone to MUTATE and produce scary new variants.

Reason being that monkey pox is caused by a DNA virus, not an RNA one. I barely understand the difference; something to do with how DNA viruses has a better built-in error-correction app than RNA viruses (like Covid). (Note: a mutation is essentially an error occuring during replication).

5. Finally, unlike Covid, a vaccine (JYNNEOS) and treatment for Monkeypox (TPOXX) are already available.

Bottom line: Relax.

References:

Multi-country monkeypox outbreak in non-endemic countries. (2022). World Health Organisation. https://www.who.int/emergencies/disease-outbreak-news/item/2022-DON385

Monkeypox. (2022). World Health Organisation. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/monkeypox

Fact Check-Monkeypox can be spread by anyone in close contact and is not a “gay disease” — contrary to posts online. (2022). Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/article/factcheck-health-monkeypox-idUSL2N2XI0PH

Rao AK, Petersen BW, Whitehill F, et al. Use of JYNNEOS (Smallpox and Monkeypox Vaccine, Live, Nonreplicating) for Preexposure Vaccination of Persons at Risk for Occupational Exposure to Orthopoxviruses: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices — United States, 2022. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. ePub: 27 May 2022. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm7122e1

Russo, A. T., Berhanu, A., Bigger, C. B., Prigge, J., Silvera, P. M., Grosenbach, D. W., & Hruby, D. (2020). Co-administration of tecovirimat and ACAM2000™ in non-human primates: Effect of tecovirimat treatment on ACAM2000 immunogenicity and efficacy versus lethal monkeypox virus challenge. Vaccine, 38(3), 644–654.

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Alwyn Lau

Edu-trainer, Žižek studies, amateur theologian, columnist.