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Monkeypox is spreading at an alarming rate in the United States, with more than 6,000 cases in 48 states and counting, leading the world in the number of infections, reminiscent of COVID-19. Beginning just two months ago, cases across the country were counted in the dozens, then hundreds, now thousands, and there is no end in sight. Comparisons to the slow response and early mismanagement by the federal government of COVID-19 should serve as a warning and a lesson on how we should not repeat the same mistakes but get the public health response right this time. I just hope we are not too late.
As a physician who for more than two decades has been caring for communities at high risk for infectious diseases, I have tracked the science closely. We know that monkeypox is not a new virus; cases have been reported since 1970 beginning in Central and Western Africa. The current 2022 global outbreak, however, is presenting with some novel clinical syndromes, with a good proportion of those infected experiencing severe pain with the appearance of skin or mucosal lesions. This monkeypox strain spreading across the United States and the globe, though rarely fatal, has resulted in a handful of deaths, all outside the United States for now, most believed to have been individuals with immune compromised conditions. Unlike COVID-19, however, monkeypox is not as easily transmitted and requires close, direct contact with skin lesions, respiratory droplets, and/or contaminated surfaces, such as bedding or clothing.