After the September 11 attacks, the United States considered vaccinating the entire population to protect against a terrorist attack using smallpox. “Ultimately, the decision was no, given the negative consequences of vaccinating many people,” said Bill Hanage, an epidemiologist at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.
He added: “Vaccine side effects are very rare. “But once you start giving it to millions of people, then they start to grow.”
Newer-generation vaccines such as Jynneos may be safer for large groups, and round vaccinations may be enough to suppress the virus. Dr Hanage said: “It is hoped that for now, perhaps monkeypox is still relatively rare and that a single round of vaccination strategy could completely prevent the disease.
In addition to the vaccine, the United States has purchased more than two million doses of an antiviral drug called tecovirimat, which is approved to treat smallpox in people who are infected, according to the CDC. The agency is also working with the drug’s manufacturer to develop an intravenous form.
Smallpox in humans was first identified in 1970 in a 9-year-old boy in an area of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where smallpox had been eliminated. Smallpox cases in monkeys in the country have increased dramatically in the decades since mass vaccination ended.
In 2003, the United States recorded dozens of cases of smallpox in monkeys caused by infected pets. Although the virus was first detected in 1958 in monkeys kept for research purposes, it is spread by rodents.
One week to two weeks after exposure, infected individuals may begin to develop fever, sore throat, cough, fatigue, and body aches. They also develop separate rashes, first on the face, then on the palms and soles, then all over the body. The sore is blistered, enlarged, and filled with white pus.