Stop telling people to worry about monkeypox


More than 350 cases of monkeypox, a milder form of smallpox, have been reported in more
than 20 countries. This is a surprising and unpleasant development. Monkeypox has surfaced
periodically in the Congo Basin and in West Africa since containing this larger outbreak, even
though monkeypox isn’t contagious as far as we know. Public health officials stressed that
monkeypox shouldn’t be feared or treated too quickly in communications.

Panic is not a good strategy for public health. However, experts fail to grasp one of the most
important lessons from Covid-19. They are too afraid of “alarmism” when outbreaks strike and
should spend less time telling people to stop reacting and more telling them what’s really

The public health community’s desire to manage the public’s emotions — rather than providing
facts — has been a constant throughout the pandemic. It often makes it difficult to make
informed decisions. The promise that people don’t require masks was made to preserve the
supply of health workers. This weakened trust and increased masking rates. It was difficult to
determine how long vaccine-based immunity will last because of the initial decision by the CDC
to not track breakthrough infections.

There are solid epidemiological reasons for concluding that monkeypox does not pose the same
threat as Covid-19 in 2020. Experts should not condemn alarmism but acknowledge the many
reasons that monkeypox is alarming. We know the world is extremely vulnerable to the next
pandemic. The undetected spread and subsequent emergence of monkeypox in countries
around the globe, despite its low transmissibility, shows how badly we have failed to learn from

Instead of advising against panic, experts should be more focused on sharing what they know
about pandemics and monkeypox.

Monkeypox explained

Infecting unprotected people with Monkeypox can lead to flu-like symptoms, a characteristic
rash, and round red blisters all over the body. It was first discovered in 1950s research animals.
According to the World Health Organization, the fatality rate has ranged from zero to 11%.

Fortunately, human outbreaks have been rare for decades. This is due to the fact that smallpox
vaccines protect against monkeypox and smallpox vaccinations were common. However, cases
of monkeypox have increased since the vaccination against smallpox () began to decline. Since
2017, Nigeria has reported 450 cases of monkeypox. This is a substantial increase over the
previous decade.

Despite the recent rise in monkeypox cases and its spread to other countries, there is the
reason for optimism that we can stop a major pandemic. Although the cause of the current
outbreaks is not fully understood and it is possible that the virus may be more easily transmitted
than previously thought, the disease is generally well-known. Even if we make pessimistic
assumptions about its transmissibility, this variant is far less transmissible that the coronavirus
which causes Covid-19. It originally had an R0 between 2-3 but now has an R0 between 8-10
for those without immunity. Monkeypox, unlike Covid-19, is believed to only be contagious when
patients become symptomatic. This gives reason to be optimistic about its containment.

Read More :- How serious could the monkeypox epidemic get?

However, optimism shouldn’t be confused with complacency.

An international epidemic of a disease previously believed to be difficult to spread person to
person is not good news. There are many unknowns and we don’t know enough to be certain
that this monkeypox variant will not spread.

Lessons from Covid-19

As I was writing this article, I felt a strange sense of déjà vu. In February 2020, just as
Americans were beginning to learn about Covid-19, I wrote an identical article. I collected some
of the most recent headlines on the coronavirus at that time.

“Don’t worry too much about the coronavirus. BuzzFeed said not to worry about the
flu. According to the Washington Post, flu “poses a greater and more urgent peril.”

An epidemiologist stated in the LA Times, “Why should we fear something that
hasn’t killed people in this country?” Other outlets are endorsed. Ex-White House
health advisor has advised Americans to ” stop panicking.”

Bad call. I was furious at the time. We didn’t yet know how transmissible coronavirus was. We
didn’t know whether the initial numbers from China, where we first saw cases, were accurate. It
is now thought that they were almost certainly. “That’s just too much uncertainty for people to be
assured that there is nothing to worry about,” I wrote. In my opinion, misleading people into
believing there is nothing to worry about can lead to harm.

Covid-19 clearly did a lot of damage, with over 1 million deaths in the US. We are at risk of
forgetting important lessons starting in 2020.

CNN quoted Jennifer McQuiston, deputy director of the Division of High Consequence
Pathogens and Pathology at the CDC, as saying last week: “There really isn’t that many patients
being reported — I think maybe a few dozen, a couple of dozen — so the general public shouldn’t
be concerned that there are immediate risks for monkeypox.”

Technically, this seems to be true. Technically, most Americans aren’t at immediate risk for
exposure to monkeypox. This is similar to what happened in February 2020 when they weren’t
at immediate risk for exposure to coronavirus (although there may have been only a few cases).
This ignores the exponential growth factor. One of the most frightening aspects of infectious
disease is that even a small number of cases could quickly grow to more cases and eventually,
many of them. Although Monkeypox is not very transmissible, it is possible to contain it.
However, the fact that there aren’t many cases isn’t reassuring.

I quoted Peter Sandman, a risk communication expert, as saying that “No reason to alarm” is
bad science and bad risk communication in the 2020 story. It is foolish to tell people not to worry
about emerging infectious diseases because they aren’t a major risk right now. We want people
to be concerned about measles even though there isn’t much of it around. This will encourage
them to take the precautionary step of getting their children vaccinated before it becomes too
late. We don’t want people to start saving for retirement until they are years away.

However, the urge to reassure Americans that monkeypox should not be a problem is strong.

Daniel Bausch, president of the American Society of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene said that
there is no reason to panic. Reason published an article called Don’t Panic About Monkeypox.
“Don’t worry — at most about this,” Geoffrey Smith the University of Cambridge poxvirus
researcher, told the Washington Post.

When experts are given more time to elaborate on their opinions, I agree with them. It is obvious
that monkeypox should be much easier to contain using contact tracing and vaccinations than

However, everyone insisting on prefacing this nuance by telling me not to be worried drives me
crazy. This is a reflection of our mistaken thinking about pandemics.

It is perfectly normal to be alarmed by pandemics

One fact that is not necessary to be stated in 2022 is the devastating effects of pandemics on
human life and health. Even though a disease may only kill one out of 1,000 people, if it strikes
a billion people around the world, that’s a million. Experts keep warning that an epidemic of
infectious disease, which has claimed more lives than any other war, is possible.

The 1918 influenza was more deadly than Covid-19 and particularly dangerous for young
healthy people. The world is not prepared for a repeat of this virus. The mortality rate for
smallpox was 30 percent when it existed. The USA has vaccines in reserve for any terrorist
acts, lab accidents, or bioweapons that could unleash on the rest of the world. However, it is
difficult to vaccinate the entire world as fast as a contagious disease like Covid-19.

There are many diseases that can be caused by nature. It’s possible to create diseases that can
rival smallpox or the flu with rapid advancements in biological engineering. The
“Gain-of-function” effort to make deadly diseases more fatal is ongoing. One small group of
criminals could unleash a virus that causes mass death. The systems that exist to stop this are
inadequate, underfunded, and not up to the task.

This makes it seem a bit silly to insist that people don’t worry about monkeypox. There are
legitimate concerns about not crying wolf and about maintaining credibility so people listen when
you say “this is the big deal”. Institutions that didn’t initially say “this is a big one” about
Covid-19, February 2020, and instead told us to worry about flu, aren’t going to restore their
credibility by continuing to follow the same path.

Instead, I would like them to take Sandman, the risk communication expert-recommended with
Covid-19. “Instead of demeaning people’s fears over the Wuhan coronavirus,” wrote. “I would
recommend officials and journalists to concentrate more on the high probability that things will
get even worse and the small possibility that they might get much worse.”

Read More :- Are monkeypox & Covid-19 both thesame? A big Differences

Take “worry” out of the center stage

The public health and communications agencies have made many of the most disastrous
mistakes of the past few years when they tried to manage public reactions. From Fauci saying
that dismissed mask-wearing in the pandemic because of fears of mass panic to concerns that
would endorse booster shots even though there was ample evidence to support it to fears that
would be criticized for approving vaccines for children younger than 5 despite the data
supporting it to the FDA’s earlier reluct to authorizing Moderna at different a would confuse the

In general, I would like to see public officials stop trying to control our emotions about outbreaks.
Do not tell us to be worried, not to worry, and not to worry now. Do not tell us to be worried
about another thing. Please tell us about the measures taken to stop the monkeypox epidemic,
prevent another monkeypox crisis, and prevent the next one from happening. Explain why
monkeypox is not likely to be very transmissible. This information is important and you have the expertise to help manage the public’s emotions.

The media, for their part, should stop asking public officials “should they worry?” and instead ask them the questions that are more relevant to their expertise: What policies would have prevented the outbreak? What are the best measures to stop it? From here, what scenarios are possible?

Many times, the phrase “don’t worry”, which is shorthand for “there are good reasons to believe monkeypox won’t cause a pandemic,” is being used to mean “don’t be alarmed” — which is, to be precise, a true claim. It’s important to make a long-term claim and not just focus on the main consideration of worry. People should not be encouraged to see outbreaks as “should I be afraid?” but rather “will it be contained? What will it take to contain it?” And, if it isn’t contained, what impact will it have on other people and the world?

The CDC doesn’t need to know if you are concerned about monkeypox or about pandemics in general, once you have all the facts.

Stop telling people to worry about monkeypox