A survey has revealed that most HCPs are concerned about the global spread of monkeypox — and the availability of resources to effectively fight the disease.
The survey, conducted by Sermo, found that nearly two-thirds of HCPs believe their countries do not currently have enough monkeypox vaccine, even as 71% cite vaccination as the most important preventive measure for patients concerned about contracting the virus.
On the positive side, more than 50% of respondents stated that their provider organization has a testing and treatment plan in place. Also, more than 60% said they are encouraged by the response from public health officials in their area.
Still, education remains a key obstacle in the public health messaging campaign. Nearly 80% of physicians expressed concerns about the spread of misinformation related to monkeypox. About 60% are specifically worried about monkeypox being classified as a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
The data were released days after the Biden administration declared monkeypox a public health emergency. And so it is that healthcare leaders are confronted with another rapidly spreading virus more than two years after the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the ongoing monkeypox spread may remind people of the start of the pandemic in the spring of 2020, there are important differences between the two that should not be conflated, according to Dr. Claudia Martorell, a Sermo Medical Advisory Board member and director of The Research Institute.
Though patients can take similar steps to protect themselves from both viruses, such as by washing their hands or distancing themselves from people who are sick, Martorell noted that monkeypox is largely spread through skin to skin contact, whereas COVID is spread through particles in the air.
Additionally, more is known about monkeypox now than was known about COVID at the beginning of the pandemic, with treatments and vaccines already in existence.
The main challenges are the availability of those treatments and vaccines as well as the level of misinformation surrounding monkeypox. Martorell took issue with the suggestion that some consider monkeypox an STI or a “gay disease” that only impacts the LGBTQIA+ community.
“It should be emphasized that this is an infection that anyone can get,” she stressed. “You’ve seen this in the infections that have emerged in the past few weeks, including children who are getting this virus.”
Martorell is glad that health officials in the U.S. and abroad have declared a public health emergency so that countries can ramp up resources to stem monkeypox’s spread. At the same time, she believes it is important for HCPs to answer patient questions without alarming them.
“Hopefully, if the message of education, the vaccine and treatment gets out to where it’s needed, I would assume that we’re still on time to get it under control,” Martorell said.