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Editor’s View: From COVID-19 to monkeypox: Continuing to wear masks and sanitize hands may not be such a bad idea

I have long worried about children born in this country after 1972.

That was the year the United States stopped routine vaccinations for babies against smallpox, declaring it eradicated from this country. The World Health Organization waited until 1980 to declare the deadly disease eradicated from countries across the globe.

You may wonder why I am discussing smallpox, a killer that has officially long been declared dead and gone. The reason is there has been a recent monkeypox outbreak across the globe, and the disease is now here in the Lehigh Valley.

Lehigh Valley Health Network spokesman Brian Downs provided Lehigh Valley Press with the following statement Aug. 1:

“Lehigh Valley Health Network is closely monitoring the spread of the monkeypox virus. With cases rising in the United States and throughout the globe, the World Health Organization recently declared monkeypox a public health emergency of international concern.

“In the last week, we have confirmed the diagnosis of monkeypox in local patients. We are awaiting final test results for several other patients.

“As the region’s health care leader, we are prepared to respond to this evolving outbreak.

“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, monkeypox is a rare viral disease with symptoms similar to - yet milder than - smallpox.

“The first human case of monkeypox was recorded in 1970 with relatively few reported cases until the current multinational outbreak of 2022.

“Symptoms of monkeypox can include fever, headache, muscle aches and backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion, along with a rash that can look like pimples or blisters that appears on the face, inside the mouth and on other parts of the body, like the hands, feet, chest, genitals or anus.

“If you are experiencing symptoms of monkeypox or are aware of a known exposure, contact your primary care provider for evaluation and guidance.

“For more on monkeypox, including prevention and treatment methods, visit the CDC website.”

Monkeypox has symptoms similar to, but milder than, smallpox - my first connection between monkeypox and smallpox.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams and Health Commissioner Ashwin Vasan declared a public health emergency due to the spread of the monkeypox virus July 30, calling the city “the epicenter” of the outbreak.

In the announcement, they said as many as 150,000 city residents could be at risk of infection.

In addition, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul declared a statewide disaster emergency, and New York state’s health department called monkeypox an “imminent threat to public health.”

New York reported 1,345 cases as of July 29, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. California was second, with 799.

So, again, you may ask why I began this opinion piece by discussing smallpox.

For more than 30 years, the former Connaught Laboratory, in Swiftwater, Monroe County, now Sanofi Pasteur, stored more than 100 liters of the smallpox vaccine.

Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, the stockpile of vaccine was transferred from the lab in Monroe County.

The government worried smallpox could be used as a terrorist biological weapon.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are now only two World Health Organization- approved labs where stocks of variola virus, smallpox, are stored and used for research. These are the CDC in Atlanta, Ga., and the Russian State Centre for Research on Virology and Biotechnology, Koltsovo, Novosibirsk Region.

And, now for another connection between monkeypox and smallpox.

Two vaccines, according to the CDC, are used for the prevention of monkeypox virus infection:

• ACAM2000, approved by the FDA for use against smallpox and made available for use against monkeypox under an Expanded Access Investigational New Drug application - my second connection to smallpox.

• JYNNEOS (Imvamune or Imvanex), licensed by the FDA for the prevention of monkeypox virus infection.

As experienced during the initial outbreak of COVID-19, the JYNNEOS vaccine is in limited supply.

The CDC further states, “There is a larger supply of ACAM2000, but this vaccine should not be used in people who have certain health conditions, such as a weakened immune system, skin conditions like eczema or other exfoliative skin conditions or pregnancy.

“No data are available yet on the effectiveness of these vaccines in the current outbreak.”


The CDC doesn’t even know if the vaccines will work against monkeypox. Oh, give me a break!

“The immune response takes 14 days after the second dose of JYNNEOS and four weeks after the ACAM2000 dose for maximal development,” the CDC states. “People who get vaccinated should continue to take steps to protect themselves from infection by avoiding close, skin-to-skin contact, including intimate contact, with someone who has monkeypox.”

The CDC says monkeypox spreads in a few ways:

• Through close, personal, often skin-to-skin, contact, including direct contact with monkeypox rash, scabs or body fluids from a person with monkeypox

• Touching objects, fabrics (clothing, bedding or towels) and surfaces that have been used by someone with monkeypox

• Contact with respiratory secretions

A pregnant person can spread the virus to a fetus through the placenta.

On July 26, CDC stated, “While data about monkeypox in children are limited, there is evidence from patients infected with the Congo Basin clade of monkeypox virus that the disease is more likely to be severe in children under 8 years of age. Additionally, anyone with immunocompromising conditions or certain skin conditions, such as eczema, is at risk of severe monkeypox disease.

Perhaps, the precautions we were advised to take to avoid COVID-19 should again be considered.

Continue to wear masks when going out in public; maintain a 6-foot distance from others; and, perhaps most importantly, use hand sanitizer, as monkeypox can be spread by touching surfaces contaminated with the virus.

Thankfully, as of this date, there are no reported deaths in the United States from monkeypox.

Let us all say a prayer for health care workers and first responders who again might need to go above and beyond the call of duty.

Deb Palmieri


Parkland Press

Northwestern Press