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The Battle of the Poxes: What You Need to Know About Monkeypox

Photo credit: World Health Organization.

By Tijani Musa.

Monkeypox is a viral zoonosis (a virus transmitted from animals to humans). According to the WHO, the symptoms of monkeypox are similar to those seen in the past in smallpox patients, although the monkeypox symptoms are clinically less severe. Another significant differentiation is that smallpox was known to have been eradicated in the 1980s. Due to the subsequent cessation of the smallpox vaccination following the eradication, monkeypox is making an entrance and attracting the attention of public health practitioners, everywhere. Historically, the environmental conditions in which cases of monkeypox are detected are near tropical rainforests. These environmental conditions are mainly in central and west Africa. Nonetheless, if Covid-19 pandemic has taught humanity any lessons, it would be that we live in a connected world and humans are interdependent on each other. Subsequently, a disease in the tropical rainforests of west Africa could easily travel on the next flight to  infect the next person anywhere in the world. Hence, to minimize the potential spread of monkeypox is to understand the people, place, or things susceptible to carrying and spreading the virus.

Typical host of monkeypox virus

Various animal species are susceptible to the monkeypox virus. The WHO included rope squirrels, tree squirrels, Gambian pouched rats, dormice, non-human primates, and other species as likely hosts of monkeypox. There is still mystery lingering on the history of the monkeypox virus, and further studies are being conducted to learn more about its exact reservoir (s) and its circulation.

How does it spread

Monkeypox spreads in many different ways starting from person to person through:

  • Direct contact with the infectious rash, scabs, or body fluids
  • Respiratory secretions during prolonged, face-to-face contact, or intimate physical contacts, such as kissing, cuddling, or sex
  • Touching items (such as clothing or linens) that previously touched the infectious rash or body fluids
  • Pregnant people can spread the virus to their fetus through the placenta
  • At this time, it is not known if monkeypox can spread through semen or vagina fluids

According to the CDC, it is possible for people to get monkeypox from infected animals, either by being scratched or bitten by the animal or by preparing or eating meat, or by using products from an infected animal. Monkeypox can spread from the time symptoms start until the rash has fully healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed. The window of illness typically lasts from 2-4 weeks. In the United States, the CDC latest data shows at least 2,108 probable or confirmed cases as of July 19, 2022. The U.S is working diligently to get in front of this virus as it has tripled its monkeypox vaccine doses since last week. More work is needed to increase the supply of vaccines.

Dr. Anthony Fauci warns that “this is something we definitely need to take seriously. We don’t know the scope and the potential of it yet, but we have to act like it will have the capability of spreading much more widely than it’s spreading right now.”

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The Urban Heat Island Effect

Photo credit: Washington City Paper.

By Leanna Theam.

I grew up in the suburbs of sunny Southern California then moved to the opposite end of California to a small college town to study Environmental Policy Analysis and Planning at the University of California, Davis. Regardless, living my entire life in California meant that have I never understood or experienced the severity of climate change. This summer, I moved to Washington, D.C. for a 10-week program to be an intern for the Center for Health, Environment, and Justice. To put it simply, I was not ready to experience summers in the city.

I never expected the heat to rise to such high temperatures on the East Coast of all places and it didn’t take me long to realize that I moved into an “urban heat island.” The Urban Heat Island Effect, as explained by the Environmental Protection Agency, “occur[s] when cities replace natural land cover with dense concentrations of pavement, buildings, and other surfaces that absorb and retain heat.” Washington, D.C. is a good example of this effect as temperatures in the city can rise to 10 or 20 degrees hotter than surrounding cities that may have more greenery.

This not only poses a threat to our environment but a threat to the communities living in these heat islands, specifically those in a lower socioeconomic class. I am fortunate enough to be temporarily housed in an apartment building with AC, and I do not have to worry as much about an energy bill for these summer months. However, long-term residents in the city do not have the same luxury. The Washington Paper explains that “wealthier D.C. residents can leave town for the beach or the mountains this time of year” compared to other lower-wealth individuals who do not have similar means to escape the heat. Federal government’s history of discriminatory actions and urban planning segregation only exacerbate this problem amongst communities of color. Historically redlined neighborhoods must put up with dangerously high levels of heat in the summer months.

Environmental justice is social justice, and we must call for our local, state, and federal governments to focus on these environmental issues. Government officials should pass policies that can help us move towards a healthier living environment to continue mitigating climate change to the best of our ability.

Check out this article to learn more: Exploring the Heat Island Effect in Washington, D.C.