As of this Monday, there have been over 100 new confirmed cases of monkeypox reported in 14 countries in a recent outbreak — and some experts are pointing to gay gathering spots in Spain as its possible origin.
The largest clusters so far have occurred in Europe, particularly Spain. This had led some health experts to hypothesize that the outbreak originated in the country, and are pointing to two specific hot spots where gay and bisexual men have recently gathered: a gay pride event in the Canary Islands in early May that drew about 80,000 people, as well as a sauna in Madrid.
However, experts warn that monkeypox is not just a concern for men who have sex with men. Dr. Boghuma Titanji, an infectious diseases physician at Emory University in Atlanta, recently told The New York Times this week that we “must keep a broad definition, so as not to leave out other groups which may emerge as being important.”
Many are also concerned about whether the world’s stockpiles of vaccines are plentiful enough, in the event of a wider-spread outbreak.
The United States emergency stockpile consists of two FDA-approved vaccines a that could be used to combat a monkeypox outbreak, according to a press statement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday. The stockpile holds more than 100 million doses of the original smallpox vaccine, however it is associated with certain side effects and isn’t recommended for certain individuals. This includes those who are immuno-compromised, such as people living with HIV, which is another concern.
There is a newer vaccine, Jynneos, which was approved in 2019 for the prevention of smallpox and monkeypox. It is safer for immuno-compromised folks, but only a 1,000 doses are currently held in the US stockpile, said Dr. Jennifer McQuiston, a deputy director at the CDC.
“We expect that level to ramp up very quickly in the coming weeks, as the company provides more doses to us,” noted Dr. McQuiston.
It’s still too early to tell what impact this outbreak will have on our shores. As of today officials have only confirmed one case in the U.S., which occurred in Massachusetts, but are looking into other a few other possible new cases in New York and other areas.