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At first glance, the news all seems a bit too familiar.
A new virus outbreak is detected. It starts spreading around the globe, case by case, country by country. Health authorities launch into action, tracking infections and issuing guidance.
After a tortuous two years, it’s understandable that the spate of monkeypox cases is bringing back some bad memories of early 2020, when the world first became aware of Covid-19.
But health experts have been clear since the first cases came about: While the public should be aware of the monkeypox outbreak, the two diseases are very different, and there isn’t the same cause for alarm as there was two years ago.
“This is not Covid,” Dr. Jennifer McQuiston, a veterinarian and deputy director of the CDC’s Division of High Consequence Pathogens and Pathology, said in a statement last week.
US President Joe Biden has also sought to de-link the two diseases in the minds of the public. “I just don’t think it rises to the level of the kind of concern that existed with Covid-19,” Biden told reporters on a recent trip to Tokyo. It was a sharp turn from comments he made the day before, when he said “everybody should be concerned.”
Of course, several leaders tried to calm citizens when Covid-19 was first emerging, only for that virus to spiral into a once-in-a-generation pandemic.
So how, exactly, is monkeypox different to Covid – and why are experts so far more relaxed about this outbreak?
Most importantly, monkeypox is not spread as easily as Covid-19. “Respiratory spread is not the predominant worry” with monkeypox, McQuiston said. It’s only passed between humans if there is very close contact with an infected person – such as sharing clothing or bedding, or through saliva – according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
The symptoms of monkeypox, in particular the rash that usually appears on a person’s body, are also more detectable than Covid-19 symptoms. And asymptomatic spread – which complicated early efforts to contain Covid – has not been documented in monkeypox, according to a 2020 study.
“Monkeypox can be a serious infection,” particularly in lower-income countries where tracking and treatments are not readily available, Michael Head, senior research fellow in global health at the University of Southampton in the UK, told CNN last week. There are no reported deaths from the current outbreak.
However, in the developed world, “it would be very unusual to see anything more than a handful of cases in any outbreak, and we won’t be seeing (Covid)-style levels of transmission,” Head said.
But perhaps most importantly of all, monkeypox is not a new disease. Smallpox vaccines can be used to tackle the virus, there is a wealth of scientific research into how the illness acts, and it doesn’t mutate as rapidly as Covid-19 has.
So if headlines about monkeypox transport your mind back to March 2020, it’s worth taking a beat.
“This is a virus we understand: we have vaccines against it, we have treatments against it, and it’s spread very differently than SARS-Cov-2 – it’s not as contagious as Covid – so I am confident we’re going to be able to keep our arms around it,” White House Covid-19 Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha told ABC’s Martha Raddatz Sunday.
YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED.
Q: Is Covid-19 contagious after treatment with Paxlovid?
A: People who have a Covid-19 relapse after being treated with antiviral drug Paxlovid can still be contagious, but they might not know it if they don’t have any symptoms.
“People who experience rebound are at risk of transmitting to other people, even though they’re outside what people accept as the usual window for being able to transmit,” said Dr. Michael Charness of the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Boston.
Charness and his colleagues collaborated with a team of researchers at Columbia University to look into cases of Covid-19 that return after Paxlovid treatment. He said they’ve found at least two instances in which people have transmitted the virus to others when their infection recurs.
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READS OF THE WEEK
Shanghai is finally ‘reopening,’ but the trauma of lockdown lives on
The skyscrapers lit up, roads filled with traffic, and young people drank and danced in the streets as fireworks boomed overhead.
As of Wednesday morning, most of Shanghai’s 25 million residents are free to leave their communities, shops and office buildings can reopen, cars are back on the streets, and subway and buses are resuming services.
Shanghai celebrated Wednesday with a long-awaited burst of life, as the government lifted its city-wide lockdown. But the process of reopening is likely to be slow and painful, as residents in the financial hub contend with the trauma of the past two months.
Did Covid curb your dating life? Date night will make its comeback a success
The pandemic may have seemed like the perfect opportunity to nurture a relationship with unlimited access to your partner, nonstop togetherness and plenty of time for intimacy.
But, as most of us are aware, lockdowns had the opposite effect on romance. Living on top of each other, not changing out of our pajamas and sometimes not showering was the epitome of not sexy.
Sex therapist Madelyn Esposito-Smith said that Covid-19 had “incinerated sexual desire” for couples living together, taking away all “intrigue and mystery” and making alone time a “precious commodity.”
With summer around the corner, it’s time to bring back something we’ve been missing, maybe without even realizing it: date night.
North Korea may rethink restrictions after claiming its Covid outbreak is improving
North Korea says its Covid-19 outbreak is improving and so it’s considering revising its anti-epidemic regulations, according to its state-run media.
KCNA reported on Sunday that leader Kim Jong Un and other top officials had assessed the pandemic situation as “improved” and discussed adjusting containment measures.
Pyongyang reported more than 89,500 new “fever cases” and 106,390 recoveries between Friday and Saturday evening nationwide, but did not mention if there had been any additional deaths.
According to KCNA, the country’s latest death toll stood at 69 at the end of last week. However, given the lack of independent reporting inside North Korea, it is difficult to verify the figures and there has long been widespread skepticism over the country’s Covid reporting.
If you suffer from long Covid, take it easy
If you don’t feel well in the weeks following a Covid-19 infection, you have to be prepared to take things slowly and manage your expectations on what you can and can’t do.
Dr. Erica Spatz, an associate professor of cardiology at the Yale School of Medicine, said a common complaint is that even just going for a walk feels awful. When returning to exercise, “start with five to 10 minutes on a recumbent bicycle or a rower, and add a couple of minutes every week,” she suggested.
This “go slow” advice applies to all lingering effects of Covid, including cognition.
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