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Will monkeypox spread as fast as COVID?

(NEXSTAR) – As health departments around the country start to report cases of monkeypox, some are getting flashbacks to early 2020 before the coronavirus spread like wildfire. With more than 30 cases across 13 states, will the virus start a new pandemic?

Key differences between the viruses make that unlikely. In a media briefing Tuesday, Dr. Tom Inglesby, director of The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, outlined some of those differences.

While monkeypox can spread through respiratory droplets, Inglesby explained, evidence suggests spread is happening through close contact.

“It’s not spreading across a room or greater distance,” Inglesby said. In addition to respiratory droplets at close range, the virus can also be spread through bodily contact, or through contact with someone’s bedding or clothing, he said.

Monkeypox does pose a serious danger to those who get it. It results in death for as many as 10% of people who contract it in Africa, where the virus is endemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, the way it spreads can make it easier to control outbreaks.

“It is not acting in a way like a disease that spreads through respiratory droplets or airborne dominantly does,” Inglesby said. “So it’s not acting like influenza or covid or chickenpox or measles – things that spread quickly in an unvaccinated community. It is acting more like a disease that is spreading by close contact.”

We also have a vaccine that works against the virus, the smallpox vaccine.

“If we all react quickly and we all work together, we will be able to stop this,” said the World Health Organization’s Dr. Rosamund Lewis. “We will be able to stop it before it reaches more vulnerable people and before it establishes itself as a replacement for smallpox.”

“It’s really important to do everything we can to try and control it,” Inglesby agreed, “but we’re not going to see the same kinds of early numbers we did as COVID because it’s spreading in different ways.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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