A pox on us … that could infect you

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As if we didn’t have enough to contend with in terms of contagious diseases, now we have monkeypox and, in some increasing instances, old-fashioned measles.

All of these are horrible to deal with; all are diseases that pass from person to person; and, in reality, all three can be fatal.

Monkeypox is getting all the headlines because it is relatively new in the U.S., and the pictures of the pustules are more than off-putting.

It is not a new disease, having originated in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1970, and is endemic in 11 countries in central and western Africa. There have been outbreaks in Western countries occasionally, including the United States, but generally, it’s one of those diseases we don’t hear much about.

Until now. So far in the current outbreak, there have been cases in more than 24 countries worldwide and upwards of 20,000 people have been infected. Those figures are changing daily.

As for the United States, at the beginning of June, there were 19 reported cases, but that has increased. As of this week, the CDC reports 72 cases in 18 states. There are no projections as to where it will continue to spread or when it will end.

How do you catch monkeypox? In African countries where the disease is native, the disease spreads from infected animals to humans.

This can involve direct contact with the animal and in some cases the eating of infected bushmeat.

The disease also spreads as a result of direct contact with an infected person – either skin-to-skin, contact with bodily fluids and even contact with clothing, bedding or other items that had contact with the infected person.

How do you treat it? With difficulty. There really aren’t specific treatments available, although physicians use existing anti-viral medications, which seem to help.

Yes, it’s serious. Yes, it can kill. People with compromised immune systems are at greatest risk.

There are reports that a person who has had a smallpox vaccination might have some immunity to monkeypox. Generally, that would be someone born before 1980, because that was when the United States stopped routinely administering the smallpox vaccination to all children.

Speaking of children and vaccinations, the pandemic meant that many children missed their medical appointments and so did not get their shots, including the MMR vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella (German measles).

The result is that there are cases of “old fashioned” red measles cropping up across the country. This is considered a “childhood disease” because it infects children easily, but it is a severe infection and can be a killer – of children and adults. Measles is one of the most contagious diseases in the world. It spreads easily through coughs and sneezes or just being in the same room as an infected person.

It’s reported that two children in Minnesota have been diagnosed, one requiring hospitalization. Both were under 5 years old, had not been vaccinated and had recently traveled to a country where measles is common.

The United States offers a two-dose vaccine against measles via the MMR shot. Full protection is only achieved with both shots, but not everyone gets them.

I was in the 6th grade, and one of the girls in my homeroom came down with measles. I didn’t even sit near her in class, but within a couple of weeks, I got measles, too, and was very sick for more than a month. I wasn’t the only one.

A real shock to our high school was when one of the seniors came down with measles and died.

Yes, it does happen.

And now there’s monkeypox. In case you are wondering why it’s called that – it has nothing to do with the continent of Africa or the people who live there. The disease was first seen and identified in a colony of research monkeys in 1958. It wasn’t until 1970 that the disease was first seen in humans – the name continued to be used.

But wouldn’t you know, that is about to change. It seems the World Health Organization (WHO) announced this week that it will officially rename the disease.

“Why” you ask? Just consider how politically correct the world has become. The organization says the renaming will take place to “address concerns about the stigma and racism associated with the word.” Current WHO guidelines omit viruses from being named after animals and geographic regions.

It’s reported that the plan to change the name comes after 30 scientists signed an open letter last week arguing for an “urgent need for a non-discriminatory and non-stigmatizing nomenclature for monkeypox virus.”

The letter went on, as reported in Breitbart, “In the context of the current global outbreak, continued reference to, and nomenclature of this virus being African is not only inaccurate, but it is also discriminatory and stigmatizing.”

The Foreign Press Association of Africa, had asked Western media to avoid using images of Africans when reporting on Monkeypox. It went on to state that as with “any other disease, it can occur anywhere in the world and affect anyone, regardless of race or ethnicity.”

The group added that it believes that “no race or skin complexion should be the face of this disease” and that it was “disturbing” that media outlets would use images of black skin when showing the disease.

Why am I not surprised?

As far as I’m concerned, the “face” of this disease is the image of those pustules and not the color of the skin they’re on.

Follow Barbara Simpson on Facebook.


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