The monkeypox epidemic shares many qualities of past epidemics. Learning from the negative outcomes that public health communication faced in the past can make sure this epidemic doesn’t end up as badly as it could.
The current spread of monkeypox bears resemblance to past infectious disease epidemics, albeit with its own unique characteristics. An accurate description of the epidemiology of the disease, along with a unified public health message from medical and civil authorities could allow for a more rapid response to the epidemic. An article published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, provides an analysis of how to avoid mistakes made during past infectious disease epidemics throughout the various stages that we are likely to face.
The authors provide comparisons to various other epidemics in the past, including CA-MRSA, HIV, and SARS-CoV-2. An atypical feature of the current monkypox outbreak has been the occurrence of minimal prodromal symptoms. They note that the prevalent understanding that monkeypox is more common among gay, bisexual, and other MSM could be related to ascertainment bias, as well as the unique relationship between this population group and public health. They also note that focusing too much on one population group at an early stage can stigmatize disease and lead to a narrowing focus on public health guidelines from the public at large.
These communicative efforts are an essential part of the public health response to the monkeypox epidemic. While direct medical interventions are essential, the public’s knowledge of public health guidelines and its attentiveness to the changing landscape of information can have a huge impact on how much spread eventually occurs. Although more data is always helpful in understanding the spread of disease, spreading this data and information without bias or stigma is just as crucial.
Daskalakis, D., McClung, R. P., Mena, L., & Mermin, J. (2022). Monkeypox: Avoiding the Mistakes of Past Infectious Disease Epidemics. Ann Intern Med, 175(8), 1177-1178. doi:10.7326/M22-1748