“It’s something that we absolutely have to take seriously. We don’t yet know the scope and the potential of it, but we have to act as if it has the ability to spread much wider than it does now. “, Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN on Saturday.
Former US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner Dr Scott Gottlieb has warned that it may be too late to control and contain the virus.
“I think the window to take control of this and contain it has probably closed. If it hasn’t closed, it’s definitely starting to close,” Gottlieb told CBS’s Margaret Brennan Sunday on “Face.” the Nation”.
Monkeypox has been detected in most of the United States except for a handful of states, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The states with the most cases are New York, California, Illinois and Florida.
Fauci, who is director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, told CNN’s Laura Coates that the numbers are “most likely understated.”
“Any time you have the emergence of something like this, you’re still probably looking at what could be – could be, we don’t know – the tip of the iceberg, so that’s why we have to get testing it there much, much more vigorously,” Fauci said on Saturday.
Gottlieb echoed the need for testing on Sunday.
“We’re probably only detecting a fraction of the actual cases because we’ve had, for a long time, a very narrow case definition of who’s been tested and overall we’re searching the community for men who have sex with men and in STD clinics. So we’re looking there, we’re finding cases there, but it’s a fact that there are cases outside of that community right now. We don’t have them. not take because we are not looking there.
On Friday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there were eight cases of monkeypox diagnosed in females at birth and no cases were reported in children or teenagers.
Gottlieb told Brennan that he thinks monkeypox “has spread more widely in the community” and that he wouldn’t be surprised if there were “thousands of cases right now.”
“Now it’s firmly entrenched in the community. And even if it’s not going to explode because it’s harder for this virus to spread, it’s probably going to be persistent. You’ll have that as a kind of fact of the life, maybe spread like a sexually transmitted disease, but also get out of those circles,” he said.
The former FDA commissioner compared the response to the monkeypox virus with the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, saying the US is making “a lot of the same mistakes”, citing a lack of early testing and not enough vaccines distributed to the community.
“We could have controlled that if we had been more aggressive up front,” Gottlieb said.
The CDC is working with five commercial labs to expand testing capacity, and the US Department of Health and Human Services said Friday that testing capacity had increased from 6,000 to 70,000 tests per week.
Gottlieb also criticized the CDC for its response to the virus.
“The White House stepped in to gain more control over the CDC’s response. It can’t be our response every time, that when the CDC drops the ball, the White House and political leaders have to step in,” said Gottlieb. “That’s what happened here, it happened to Covid. We need to fundamentally reform the way we respond to these crises.”
CNN contacted the CDC for comment, but did not immediately respond.
Monkeypox is a pox virus related to smallpox and cowpox. The virus typically causes sores resembling pimples or blisters and flu-like symptoms such as fever, the CDC explained.
The lesions are usually concentrated on the arms and legs, but in the latest outbreak they appear more frequently on the genital and perianal area, which has raised some concerns. Monkeypox lesions can be mistaken for a sexually transmitted disease.
The virus spreads through close contact – including direct physical contact with lesions as well as “respiratory secretions” shared through face-to-face interaction. Touching objects contaminated with monkeypox lesions or fluids can also risk the spread.
And while monkeypox isn’t an STD, it’s mostly spread among men who have sex with men.
On Saturday, Fauci said he expects up to 700,000 vaccines to be distributed to communities by the end of July.
“Because you want to protect people at risk, not only people who might have been exposed to their knowledge, but also people, because they are in a risk situation, that they need to get vaccinated,” a he noted.
CNN’s Virginia Langmaid and Deidre McPhillips contributed to this report.