the moment I learned monkeypox is a crisis, ‘reminds’ of HIV

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci says the way monkeypox is spreading in the US is “very reminiscent” of “the early days of HIV.”
  • It is “very problematic for me to have been there 41 years ago,” he said.
  • Still, he is hopeful that the current monkeypox outbreak will not end like the HIV epidemic and that the virus will be brought under control.

Officially, more than 6,600 people in the US have been diagnosed with monkeypox since May 18, when the first household patient in this outbreak was discovered in Massachusetts. Public health experts say the true number of monkeypox cases in the country is probably much higher.

Positive tests have been trickling in over the summer: first by trickle, then by trickle, leading to an avalanche of new monkeypox diagnoses being recorded every day.

Now, at least three states — California, Illinois and New York — have declared states of emergency over the disease, the White House has appointed a monkeypox response team, and the CDC is scrambling to bolster its “limited supply” of the only vaccine licensed for use against monkeypox in the United States.

But it was before all this, in late spring, early summer, when data was beginning to show that monkeypox was “efficiently” being transmitted from person to person in the US, that Dr. Anthony Fauci he had a sinking feeling that he had felt before.

“I said ‘uh oh,'” Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, told the Science Vs. podcast when asked what was going through his mind as the number of cases in the US outbreak continued. growing and growing.

monkeypox and curve

Cumulative number of confirmed cases of monkeypox in the US, from mid-May to mid-July.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

“That’s very reminiscent of what we saw in the early days of HIV,” Fauci said, expressing concern.

Unlike previous monkeypox diagnoses in the US, this year’s cases were not limited to prairie dog owners and their close contacts, nor were they the result of recent travel to West Africa . Instead, overall, the monkeypox lesions seen in this outbreak have been spreading to intimate areas of the body, among men who have sex with men.

“It was kind of a gradual ‘OMG’,” said Fauci, who heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “From the very beginning, the epidemiological circumstances in which it happened were very problematic for me, having been there 41 years ago with HIV.”

Fauci initially thought HIV was “just a fluke”

Dr. Anthony Fauci testifies before a hearing of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on January 11, 2022 on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Dr. Anthony Fauci on January 11, 2022 in Washington.

Greg Nash/Pool via AP, File

U.S. doctors and scientists began researching the human immunodeficiency virus in 1981, “at a time when HIV hadn’t been discovered yet. We weren’t even calling it AIDS,” Fauci told an oral history project in 2007. Initially, the disease was reported in only a handful of gay men living in Los Angeles. Two of them died.

At the time, Fauci thought maybe “it was just a fluke,” he told reporters gathered at a vaccine conference in 2019.

In the early 1980s, Fauci said there was a lot of “confusion” about how the virus was transmitted, with people wondering, “Is this a rare disease of gay men?”

Was not. HIV, like other viral diseases (including monkeypox), can affect any vulnerable and exposed person, under the right circumstances.

“As it evolved, literally week after week after week, you got the development and the evolution of the epidemiology, which made it clear that it was not restricted to just gay men,” Fauci said.

He believes we can, and will, take control of this outbreak.

Unlike the HIV crisis, Fauci is hopeful that the current monkeypox outbreak won’t end up with millions of infected people around the world needing treatment.

“Anything is possible, but it’s unlikely,” he told Science Vs. “If we continue to push the accelerator, vaccinating as many people as possible, getting it under control. I think we can do it.”

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