Those who don’t learn from history are condemned to repeat it. The Biden administration is bungling the response to the monkeypox epidemic by responding as slowly and ineptly as the FDA and CDC did in the coronavirus pandemic.
This monkeypox disease, which has a higher case fatality rate than COVID-19, and can disfigure survivors, is spreading largely undetected in the United States, as COVID once did, threatening to outstrip the ability of quarantines and the healthcare system to stop it.
And, once again, federal agencies are slow to react. As Hot Air notes,
They can’t get their act together on testing; the CDC puts out misleading information; commercial laboratories are underutilized in the early effort to spot cases. America ends up flying blind for months about the extent of community transmission until the virus becomes so prevalent that it can’t be contained. It happened with COVID. It’s happening again with monkeypox, experts tell [the Washington Post]. Except this time, the guy in charge is the one who got elected promising to “shut down” that other virus (which he failed to do). The professionals were supposed to be back in charge in Washington as of January 2021.
Yet many of the errors of 2020 are being repeated now, albeit on a mercifully much smaller scale. Biden doesn’t even have the excuse that Trump did of having to cope with a novel virus about which nothing was known. Scientists know all about monkeypox: They know how it spreads, they know how to stop it. They even have a vaccine ready to go. In circumstances like those, you’d expect a germ to be stopped cold. But it’s still spreading among Americans.
Experts are expressing dismay about the unchecked spread, but the Biden administration has generally turned a deaf ear. Public health officials’ have been dreadfully bad and uninformative in their messages about monkeypox symptoms, who to test for the disease, and when to test them, according to experts such as Lauren Sauer, a professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center:
Clinicians, patients and some administration officials have faulted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for testing criteria that they say are too narrow and have resulted in long waits — sometimes multiple days — in identifying positive cases. Under the current framework, physicians who want a test for an individual suspected to have monkeypox must first consult with a state epidemiologist. State public health officials say that protocol helps identify people at highest risk so doctors can recommend isolation and take other steps to prevent community spread…
And just as in early 2020, when the coronavirus first menaced the United States, federal officials at first limited monkeypox testing to a network of several dozen public health laboratories — and did not authorize thousands of commercial laboratories and hospitals to perform their own testing, too…
The response has also been hindered by U.S. physicians’ lack of familiarity with the disease. The CDC initially publicized decades-old photos from more severe outbreaks in Africa, instead of the more subtle rashes detected in the recent global outbreak. The United States was far slower than Britain and Canada to distribute updated education materials, only recently sharing photos showing what the rashes look like on fair skin, said David Harvey, executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors.
As Hot Air observes, a
patient in New York City showed up to a clinic this month with flu-like symptoms and swollen lymph nodes after returning home from Portugal, having had sex there with other men. If you’ve followed the news about Europe’s monkeypox outbreak, you know that should have triggered alarm bells in his doctor. The virus is primarily spreading among gay and bisexual men and a festival in the Canary Islands, off the coast of Portugal, seems to have been a superspreader event. The patient eventually developed abnormal lesions too — but he had to visit four different providers before one of his doctors finally hit on the idea of testing him for monkeypox. A virologist based in the city told [the Washington Post] that “he was aware of a dozen similar cases in which people with possible monkeypox symptoms were being rebuffed.” Not a great effort by the CDC to put the word out if even doctors in America’s biggest city don’t know what to look for and can’t easily test.
The result is that America’s small number of confirmed monkeypox cases relative to Europe is almost certainly a gross undercount due to poor surveillance, not lesser spread. Known cases in Britain rose nearly 40 percent in the span of five days last week and the WHO is considering declaring a global emergency. Because there’s an extant vaccine for the virus, it’s crucially important to quickly identify patients and then rush the vaccine to their close contacts to stop the spread, i.e. “ring vaccination.” But the more the virus spreads undetected, the more contacts there are to trace, and suddenly it becomes logistically impossible to run down everyone who might have been exposed…..In fact, it’s anyone’s guess whether the virus has already spread far enough in the population to make ring vaccination momentarily impossible. The U.S. has 36,000 doses of the leading monkeypox vaccine stockpiled; if there are, say, 6,000 people infected right now and each has six close contacts, that’s every last dose accounted for — if we can find those contacts and get it to them immediately. Every day that they have to wait means the pool of infected gets larger.
This is all very worrisome, because the more people or animals a virus infects, the more chances it has to mutate into something even more contagious. That happened repeatedly with the coronavirus. Now it is occurring with monkeypox, too, according to Newsweek.
Federal bureaucrats slowed the fight against COVID-19, until the Trump administration responded with things like Operation Warp Speed.
For weeks early in the coronavirus pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention required that people use only the coronavirus test designed by the CDC itself, not alternative tests, such as those approved by European regulators. The CDC’s own test turned out to be badly flawed. The CDC’s demand for control over testing greatly slowed down detection of the disease. Meanwhile, the CDC and FDA were preventing infectious disease expert Helen Chu from testing samples from many people with symptoms. The FDA refused to approve Chu’s test on the grounds that her lab “was not certified as a clinical laboratory under regulations established by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, a process that could take months.” FDA regulations thwarted the manufacturing of high-quality masks and respirators during the pandemic.For a long time, the FDA told at-home diagnostics companies to stop coronavirus test roll-outs. As a result, customers didn’t get their results and were told to destroy their test kits.
These were decisions made by career federal employees, acting with their customary slowness and rigidity. Career FDA employees commonly take years to approve life-saving drugs. That results in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people who could have been saved by prompt approval of those drugs. For example, at least a hundred thousand people died waiting for the FDA to approve beta blockers.