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Is there a cure or a treatment for monkeypox?

After a case of monkeypox was identified in Massachusetts, US health officials have ordered millions of doses of a vaccine to control the virus’ spread.

How to treat monkeypox

On Wednesday health officials confirmed that a Massachusetts resident had tested positive for monkeypox, a viral disease rarely found outside of Western and Central Africa.

It was the first such case recorded in the United States this year but similar discoveries in Europe, particularly in the United Kingdom, suggest that the virus may be becoming more transmissible.

The risk to the public is incredibly small and cases remain extremely rare, but in Africa studies have found that the virus causes death in as many as one in ten people infected with the virus. There are currently no specific treatments available for monkeypox infection.

Vaccines are available to control monkeypox outbreaks

While there are no retroactive treatments proved to cure monkeypox infections, there are a number of vaccinations that can prevent the spread and make instances of infection less severe. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that the smallpox vaccination, cidofovir, ST-246, and vaccinia immune globulin (VIG) can all be used to tackle a monkeypox outbreak.

In the United States the Jynneos vaccine, also known as Imvamune or Imvanex, has been licensed for the prevention of monkeypox. The monkeypox virus is closely related to smallpox so, despite initially being a smallpox vaccine, the Jynneos shot can protect recipients from monkeypox.

Data from recipients in Africa found that smallpox vaccines are at least 85% effective in preventing monkeypox infection. There is also evidence that vaccination after exposure to monkeypox may prevent a serious infection.

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US stocks up on monkeypox vaccines

With confirmed case of monkeypox recorded in the US, health authorities are taking no chances and have ordered millions of doses of the Jynneos vaccine. The federal government has entered into an agreement to buy $119 million worth of the vaccination, produced by biotechnology company Bavarian Nordic.

However the government also has a significant pre-existing order with Bavarian Nordic, made and invoiced in the past. The US will convert some of the previous orders into freeze-dried versions which can be kept for a longer amount of time.

In total the government is tied in to $299 million of purchases from the pharmaceutical company, which is expected to provide 13 million doses of the smallpox/monkeypox vaccine.

However there are no plans to make these immediately available and the huge order appears to be more of a contingency plan than a necessity now. It is thought that the first of the doses will be available by next year, with further batches to be manufactured for 2024 and 2025.


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