71 US MONKEY POX CASES!!1! - In 2003...
Don't Get Fools Again...
If you watched the news this weekend you probably saw that Covid is old news, there's a new virus on the loose, MONKEY POX!!!
Countries around the developed world are tracking new cases, public health agencies are warning about the dangers of the disease, and Joe Biden even made a statement about it, saying "everyone should be concerned " and that his administration is looking into the development of a vaccine.
Well instead of playing into this fear, how about some perspective:
I, like most of the public, have never heard of Monday Pox before, so it came as some surprise when I learned that the CDC tracked not 1, not 10, but 71 cases of Monkey Pox across the Midwest back in 2003. Here's the CDC's report:
"As of July 8, 2003, a total of 71 cases of monkeypox have been reported to CDC from Wisconsin (39), Indiana (16), Illinois (12), Missouri (two), Kansas (one), and Ohio (one)... Among 69 patients for whom data were available, 18 (26%) were hospitalized; some patients were hospitalized for isolation precautions only. Two patients, both children, had serious clinical illness (1--4); both of these patients have recovered."
Monkey Pox is like a number of other rare diseases endemic to parts of Africa, which are not very contagious and which our public health agencies are fairly well equipped to handle with contact tracing without the general public even knowing about it. It's highly unlikely that the 2022 outbreak will be any different from 2003 in terms of disease severity and impact, but given our recent experience with Covid we can expect orders of magnitude more media coverage.
I, like most of the general public, used to ignore all these disease scares, but now after Covid I expect many will start to take them a lot more seriously. I think that would be learning the wrong lesson. I think the original heuristic, if default to ignoring these disease scare headlines, was correct.
We just had a once in a century pandemic. The chances that this year's disease scare is the next big one are still about 1 in 100. But having had our lives turned upside down by Covid you can expect the public to be dripped by headlines of the next pandemic and pay much more attention to these stories, and in turn you can expect the media to play up the fear.
So we need to push back against that fear. We need to fight hard to establish some perspective, because the media certainly won't provide it:
There was a significant outbreak of Monkey Pox across the Midwest 20 years ago and you didn't even notice. You wouldn't have known about this year's outbreak either except that the media is using it to drive clicks.
Don't be fooled or as George W Bush would say, "Fool me once... shame on you. Fool me... I can't get fooled again...."
Anyway 0 and 2...