Now that the Biden administration has declared monkeypox a public health emergency, do meeting planners need to worry?
Just the name monkeypox sounds ominous, suggesting that it’s a combination of an animal-to-human virus jumper like COVID and a deadly disease like smallpox, of which it is a less-lethal relative. But is this new public health threat something that meeting planners should be concerned about?
The good news is that the risk of catching monkeypox from casual contact—like at a meeting—is extremely low. In a recent World Health Organization study of more than 3,900 people infected with monkeypox, about 90 percent of respondents contracted the disease through a sexual encounter.
So although there are examples where monkeypox has spread through face-to-face interactions with someone or by touching a contaminated surface, this remains rare. “During this outbreak, there will probably be at least one random case where somebody gets it on a bus. But, you know, that’s going to be profoundly rare, probably less likely than being hit by that bus,” Dr. Susan McLellan from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas, said during a recent interview with NPR.
The other good news is that the strain of monkeypox that’s being spotted outside its home base generally has a low fatality rate. As a DNA-based virus, it tends to be much slower to mutate than RNA-based viruses such as HIV and the virus that causes SARS, which makes it less likely to spawn new, more infectious and/or more deadly versions.