Jul 13, 2022 - Podcasts

Containing monkeypox with lessons from the COVID response

Cases of monkeypox, the disease caused by a virus similar to smallpox, are rising in the U.S. There are now more than 750 documented cases according to the CDC, although the actual number is likely much higher. It’s not a pandemic, but what lessons have we learned from covid that can help us contain monkeypox?

  • Plus: the January 6th committee looks at Trump’s power to incite violence.
  • And: snapshots of space 13 billion years ago.

Guests: Dr. Jennifer Nuzzo, professor of Epidemiology and the director of the Pandemic Center at the Brown University School of Public Health; Axios' Andrew Solender and Miriam Kramer.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Lydia McMullen-Laird, Alex Sugiura, and Ben O'Brien. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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NIALA: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Wednesday July 13th.

I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Here’s what we’re covering today: The January 6th committee hears from insurrectionists. Plus, snapshots of space from 13 billion years ago.

But first: how lessons from the COVID response could help us contain monkeypox. That’s today’s one big thing.

NIALA: Cases of monkeypox, the disease caused by a virus similar to smallpox, are rising in the U.S. There are now more than 750 documented cases according to the CDC, although the actual number is likely much higher. It’s not a pandemic, but what lessons have we learned from covid that can help us contain monkeypox? Here to explain is Dr. Jennifer Nuzzo, Professor of Epidemiology and the director of the Pandemic Center at the Brown University School of Public Health. Hi Dr. Nuzzo!

JENNIFER NUZZO: Hi there. How are you?

NIALA: Dr. Nuzzo, where are we right now in the trajectory of this disease? Is it even fair to compare where we are with monkeypox to the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic?

JENNIFER: It's a little bit hard to tell because we're just now turning on our surveillance to try to find this virus. And so, much of what we're seeing in, in terms of the rapid growth in cases, is in part because we're finally allowing people to get tested for it. That's actually a similarity to the early days of the COVID pandemic that constrained testing. Once you finally eliminate bottlenecks and start looking for the virus, you find a lot more of it than you saw before. But in terms of how this virus spreads versus the SARS CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-10 disease, they spread much differently and we would expect to see the number of cases and the case growth be quite different.

NIALA: Can you just give us a quick, what people do need to know about monkeypox in terms of who's most at risk and what you should be watching for?

JENNIFER: Yeah. So I think the first thing that people should be aware of is just what the symptoms of monkeypox are. And, there are some flu-like symptoms in terms of fever and, you know, sometimes swollen lymph nodes. But also a likelihood of developing a rash. Right now what we're seeing is the vast majority of cases are occurring in a population of patients, men who have sex with men. Um, that's an important risk factor to know about and if you're in that population and if you've had close physical contact with others, uh, that increases your risk of contracting monkeypox. I think it's really important that we highlight what the known risk factors are, but also recognize that they could change. And there's no biological reason known yet why this virus would stay in the group of men who have sex with men it's, uh, known to be spread by close physical contact. And it's I think a concern that it could potentially show up in other patient groups, if it hasn't already.

NIALA: When we're talking about testing in vaccines for monkeypox, how important is that and what's available right now?

JENNIFER: Yeah. So testing is, gonna be our primary intervention right now, and testing in the sense that we need to use it to find people who are infected and then have those people know that they're infected and then stay home and isolate from others until they're no longer contagious. We also have vaccines that can be used to keep people from getting sick and also can be used shortly after if someone knows that they've been exposed to it and they haven't yet developed symptoms it can also be used to help reduce the level of symptoms that they're ultimately developed. It's good news that we have vaccine actually, a couple different options, but vaccines that are, allow us to, to do this. Um, but we don't have enough for the level of demand that there is right now.

NIALA: What do we need to do to get testing and vaccines up to capacity? And how long will that take?

JENNIFER: Yeah, so it's really frustrating to me that that hasn't happened faster. And I think that's been an important lesson from COVID-19 that unfortunately went sort of unheeded at the start of this situation. But, it's encouraging news that now commercial laboratories are going to be involved in testing for this infection and that will make it easier for people to get tested. Um, but we need additional testing technologies and I think that's one place where we'd like the government to lead a bit more in terms of, you know, research and, and development funding to make sure that we have all the tools available to us and, try to work hard to try to put this virus back in the box.

NIALA: Jennifer Nuzzo is a professor of epidemiology and director of the Pandemic Center at Brown University School of Public Health. Thanks for joining us, Dr. Nuzzo.

JENNIFER: Thanks so much for having me.

NIALA: In a moment we’re back with new revelations from the January 6th hearings.

NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today. I’m Niala Boodhoo.

JASON VAN TOTENHOVE: I think we need to quit mincing words and just talk about truths and what it was gonna be was an armed revolution.This could have been the spark that started a new civil war.

NIALA: That’s a former spokesperson for the far right militia group ‘The Oath Keepers’ testifying yesterday in the latest round of the January 6th select committee hearings. We also heard from a twitter employee and members of Trump's team. And Axios’ Andrew Solender joins us from Capitol Hill.

ANDREW SOLENDER: Hey Niala. Van Tatenhove, was basically laying out, how, you know, from his perspective of somebody who was a part of the Oath Keepers that the group has really, drifted far to the right. We also heard from Steve Ayres of course, giving, uh, a very unique perspective of something we haven't really heard before, certainly in live testimony or close door testimony, which is the perspective of somebody who was influenced by former President Trump. And what Ayres, really gave is, is sort of his perspective as an individual who was at the Ellipse rally and later at the capital, uh, he pleaded guilty in June to disorderly and disruptive conduct in relation to the capital riot. And he said that Trump “got everyone riled up during his Ellipse speech.” And then he said, you know, Trump's tweet, with a video telling supporters to go home, albeit after hours of rioting “dispersed a lot of the crowd.” And it really sort of underscores what, especially committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney has been saying, which is that Trump held a lot of power. And in Cheney's view, certainly in the view of the committee, he was completely derelict with that power. It's a case that the committee's likely going to make in the next hearing as well, which is gonna be focused on the events in the white house, as the violence was unfolding in this, you know, hours-long delay in, in getting the rioters to disperse.

NIALA: Andrew Solander is part of the Axios politics team joining us from Capitol Hill. Thanks Andrew.

ANDREW: Thank you.

NIALA: The world got its first glimpse at some stunning photos of what our universe looked like billions of years ago and it did not require time travel, just a very powerful telescope. The 10 billion James Webb space telescope. Axios’ Miriam Kramer is here to explain space and time. Miriam, I really wanted to say space time continuum, but actually is time dilation the correct term that we're talking about here?

MIRIAM KRAMER: Yeah, I think that's more right.

NIALA: So these are stunning photographs, but I have a question about the time involved with this, because we are looking at images of something in the past. This is not what these galaxies look like now?

MIRIAM: That's right. What we're looking at is basically, uh, frozen in time snapshot of what these galaxies looked like billions of years ago. When the James Webb space telescope looks into space, it's actually so sensitive that it's able to see galaxies that are more than 13 billion light years away. Which means that it is seeing them as they looked 13 billion light years in the past, because that's how long it's taken this light to actually reach the telescope when it was able to open its eye and look out on the universe.

NIALA: Some of these images are stunning. They are so beautiful, the colors. Let's talk about the one that President Biden introduced, the one you were just talking about that shows all of these different galaxies. What to you is so important about this picture?

MIRIAM: Yeah. Well, I think the thing that I, I keep coming back to with it is that it is part of a long line of photos like this. The Hubble space telescope actually kind of originated these deep field images. It's a pretty incredible thing to see this telescope come online, particularly as the Hubble space telescope is, you know, nearing sort of what most people believe will be the end of its life at some point. To see this successor to it be so successful in space already, uh, and to see these images that have things we've never seen before within them it's pretty, it's pretty amazing. It's pretty cool to see.

NIALA: Miriam Kramer is Axios’ space reporter, and we will include a link to her stories about this so you can see these images in our show notes. Thanks Miriam.

MIRIAM: Thanks for having me.

NIALA: That’s it for us today! If you have a moment to follow us on your favorite podcast app that’ll make sure you don’t miss any episodes of Axios Today.

I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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