Anyone wondering why medical authorities seem so ineffectual need look no further than their newfound obsession with renaming the monkeypox virus and the disease it causes. Their preoccupation with avoiding giving offense distracts from the necessary task of combating disease spread.
The monkeypox virus, discovered in 1958, got its name because monkeys were the first animals found carrying it. In fact, monkeys aren’t the natural host of the virus; the true reservoir host remains unknown.
The first human monkeypox case was identified in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Until recently, nearly all cases were reported in Africa. Outbreaks outside of Africa are rare, which is why the outbreak that began in May is noteworthy.
There have been nearly 50,000 cases and 15 deaths worldwide to date, with nearly all the cases outside of Africa, in countries that have not historically reported monkeypox. Previous outbreaks have resulted from transmission from animals to humans, but the current outbreak involves human-to-human transmission, almost exclusively among gay men. The U.S. has the most cases of any country (18,417) by far, but thankfully no deaths.