White House health officials believe “we’re going to get very close” to eradicating monkeypox.
Deputy coordinator of the White House monkeypox response team, Demetre Daskalakis, made this pronouncement while visiting a vaccination clinic on Thursday.
Daskalakis predicted that eventually, cases will become extremely sparse, to the point where health officials will be able to implement a strategy known as ring vaccination, the method used to eradicate smallpox in which close contacts of someone with the disease are isolated and vaccinated.
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But others aren’t so quick to declare victory.
Activist James Krellenstein, founder of the group PrEP4All, told the New York Times that it’s far too soon to make such a proclamation.
“This is the first time that we really have seen a large outbreak of monkeypox with sustained human-to-human transmission, and there remain many scientific unknowns. Let’s not get into ‘mission accomplished’ landing on an aircraft carrier territory here,” Krellenstein said.
One thing seems to be clear: Monkeypox will likely never go away completely.
Infectious disease expert Dr. Michael T. Osterholm said that because monkeypox can also be found in animals, it will be impossible to completely eradicate it. There will always be an “animal reservoir” that could spread to humans.
Instead of eradication, Osterholm used the word elimination, which is what happened with measles.
“We’ve had a major measles elimination program in this country and have greatly reduced the occurrence of measles, but the challenge today remains the introduction of the virus from individuals around the world.”
Monkeypox cases have declined 29% over the last two weeks. The United States is now averaging about 200 cases per day.