Reason Roundup

Don't Panic Over Monkeypox

Plus: The wrong way to address formula shortages, Clinton approved the plan to share Trump-Russia information, and more...


It's not just fear of disease that has folks on high alert over monkeypox, a viral illness that is similar to smallpox but less severe. Our society simply couldn't take another pandemic right now. But in the past 10 days, cases have been reported in the United States, as well as in Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the U.K. Typically, monkeypox is rare outside West and Central Africa.

In total, there were 92 confirmed cases and 28 suspected cases as of yesterday, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports.

On the upside, there's little reason to think monkeypox will wreak the kind of havoc that COVID-19 did. It does not spread as easily or cause severe symptoms in most people. And it's not novel—we already know what monkeypox is and how to fight against it.

"Although the disease belongs to the same virus family as smallpox, its symptoms are milder" and "people usually recover within two to four weeks without needing to be hospitalized," notes U.S. News & World Report.

Monkeypox is "not as highly transmissible as something like smallpox, or measles, or certainly not Covid," Anne Rimoin, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of California Los Angeles, told Vox.

In addition, we already have a vaccine that provides some protection against monkeypox: the smallpox vaccine. And the U.S. has "enough to deal with the likelihood of a problem," said President Joe Biden in Tokyo this week.

"I just don't think it rises to the level of the kind of concern that existed with COVID-19," said Biden. He says he does not expect quarantine requirements even for people infected.

On the downside, governments worldwide—and the people they control—have gotten used to enacting extreme measures for disease mitigation purposes.

So we could see a lot of early overreaction to monkeypox from leaders fearful of another pandemic or of repeating coronavirus mistakes. And we now have recent precedent treating lockdowns and other restrictions as appropriate ways to contain public health threats.

Sweden has classified monkeypox as a "disease dangerous to public health," which means authorities there could impose measures similar to those imposed for COVID-19. But they have not done so as of yet, and they say widespread restrictions are unlikely. (Sweden, of course, reacted to COVID with a relatively light hand.)

What are we dealing with here? Monkeypox is a viral disease that can cause lesions, fever, swollen lymph nodes, headaches, muscle aches, back pain, and fatigue. It can be transmitted through "close contact with lesions, body fluids, respiratory droplets and contaminated materials such as bedding," explains the WHO. "The incubation period of monkeypox is usually from 6 to 13 days but can range from 5 to 21 days."

There are two types of monkeypox—the West African clade and the Congo Basin clade. The cases currently being seen are of the West African type, which spreads less easily.

"Monkeypox is usually self-limiting but may be severe in some individuals, such as children, pregnant women or persons with immune suppression due to other health conditions," says the WHO.

The disease has a fatality rate of 3.6 for the West African clade and 10.6 percent for the Congo Basin clade. But the fatality rate may be lower "in high-resource countries like the United States because people living there generally have better access to the supportive care that resolves most monkeypox infections," reports Vox. "In 2003, at least 53 people in the midwestern United States caught the infection from pet prairie dogs who'd been infected when they were housed near rodents imported from Ghana; none of the infected people died."

In the current outbreak, "reported cases thus far have no established travel links to an endemic area," says the WHO. "Cases have mainly but not exclusively been identified amongst men who have sex with men (MSM) seeking care in primary care and sexual health clinics."

"The identification of confirmed and suspected cases of monkeypox with no direct travel links to an endemic area represents a highly unusual event," the agency adds. "WHO expects that more cases in non-endemic areas will be reported."


Clinton approved sharing Trump-Russia "link" with reporter. Hillary Clinton personally approved her 2016 campaign's decision "to share information with a reporter about an uncorroborated alleged server backchannel between Donald Trump" and the Moscow-based Alfa Bank, reports CNN. This revelation came from Clinton's former campaign manager, Robby Mook, as he testified in federal court on Friday. "Federal investigators ultimately concluded there weren't any improper Trump-Alfa cyber links," CNN adds.

Mook's testimony was part of the criminal trial of Michael Sussmann, who had been a Clinton campaign lawyer. Sussmann is being prosecuted as part of Trump-era special counsel John Durham's investigation into possible misconduct in the FBI's handling of Trump-Russia allegations.


Shot, and chaser:


• President Biden said today that the U.S. would get militarily involved if China invades Taiwan.

• The achievement loss due to pandemic school closures "is far greater than most educators and parents seem to realize," writes economist Thomas Kane, faculty director of the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University

• Singer John Legend on criminal justice reform and why people should care who their local district attorney is:

Prosecutors make policy decisions about which crimes they are going to focus on and prosecute, how much they're going to charge someone and what they're going to ask for in sentencing. They decide whether to use cash bail, which is a highly discriminatory policy that forces people to stay in jail simply because they can't afford bail, leading people to be punished just for being poor. All these decisions affect our incarceration rate. In 2017, we started a "Know your DA" education campaign with the ACLU, because most people probably couldn't tell you who their DA was and didn't vote that far down on the ballot or just voted for the incumbent. And then we started looking for more progressive alternatives to run.

• Ronald Reagan's daughter, , on her father and abortion.

• I talked with physician Eric Larson about Roe v. Wade and the future of abortion politics:

• Germany is temporarily banning outdoor cats.

• A British teacher of literature discusses why Derry Girls—a comedy set in '90s North Ireland—is so good.

• Sigh…