Monkeypox and Bio-Engineered Plagues

Monkeypox virus. Photo: CDC.

Let’s hope that creepy disease called monkeypox isn’t the next plague waiting in the wings. With a world public weary of covid, it easily could be lulled into nonchalance by the deceptive tale that, oh, monkeypox only happens to gay men. Well it doesn’t. It can infect anybody. And if you think you’re safe because you’re not a gay male, you may be in for a nasty surprise.

Predictably the U.S. health bureaucracy is slow out of the gate. Of the two monkeypox vaccines, the better one is in short supply. That’s the two-dose Jynneos vaccine, which the department of Health and Human Services is releasing, but so far less than a million shots. Meanwhile, states can request doses of an older smallpox vaccine, ACAM2000, from the national stockpile, which contains roughly 100 million doses. This vaccine features some lousy side effects, and those with heart disease or the immunocompromised should avoid it.

Plans to produce more Jynneos should have ramped up a month or two ago. They did not. They are only doing so now. Naturally demand outstrips supply, as monkeypox cases multiply, possibly exponentially. So far, the CDC reports a mere 600 plus cases in the U.S. with over 6000 worldwide. But unreported cases could be exploding. If this sounds like you’ve been here before, you’re correct. Think February 2020, as covid just got rolling, then rolling…then snowballing. Have federal agencies like the CDC, FDA and HHS learned from that miserable experience? So far prognostications don’t look good.

“New monkeypox cases have tripled in Europe since June 15,” NPR proclaimed July 1, as readers everywhere nervously inspected their mosquito bites, to make sure they weren’t the tell-tale monkeypox blisters. According to NPR, the European country the worst affected is the UK. While Africa has a smaller caseload, it also experienced 73 deaths. No fatalities so far in Europe.

Meanwhile the disease spreads rapidly. On July 7, the World Health Organization announced that worldwide the preceding week, monkeypox cases increased 77 percent. French health authorities called on sex workers, gay men and others at risk to get the vaccine, because, after all, the disease can cause death. As of July 4, 59 countries had reported cases of monkeypox. This thing is spiking.

And the U.S. response lags behind. “The U.S. May Be Losing the Fight Against Monkeypox, Scientists Say,” headlined a New York Times story July 8. Just the news you don’t want to encounter on your screen over your morning coffee. The Times notes that the first cases of the disease were reported two months ago, “but tests will not be readily available until sometime this month. Vaccines will be in short supply for months longer. Surveillance is spotty and official case counts are likely a gross underestimate.” So no tests, not enough vaccines and iffy surveillance – haven’t we watched this song and dance before?

Indeed we have. The Times observes that the same bureaucratic mistakes the government made with testing and tracing covid are being repeated, to the point where one researcher said, “And now I have serious doubts about whether it can even be contained.” Just great. Our public health infrastructure stinks, because this is capitalism, and health care exists to make a buck for giant corporations, not to deliver, uh, good health to the public, as happens in Cuba. After the covid debacle, with the U.S. afflicted by more coronavirus deaths than any other country, this should be clear, but somehow the public health ineptitude never fails to astonish. It should. It’s a feature, not a bug.

Related to smallpox, monkeypox, particularly the strain we’re seeing in the west, is less deadly. Its symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, exhaustion, a rash or blisters on hands, feet, face and in the mouth. Fun times. But at least if you get it, you probably won’t die. Also, unlike covid, there’s almost no chance it was engineered in a bio-research lab funded by the U.S. government – something recently affirmed as more than probable by Professor Jeffrey Sachs, who chaired a commission on covid for the Lancet for two years. He out and out said covid was likely engineered as a U.S. project with U.S. money. This earthshaking news about a virus that killed roughly 20 million people worldwide appeared only in a May 19 Intercept article by Sharon Lerner. Maybe one other media outlet covered it.

 The type of genetic manipulation that Sachs and molecular biology professor Neil Harrison think went into the creation of covid was “a specific goal of work proposed by the [academic/laboratory] partnership within a 2018 grant proposal…that was submitted to the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects (DARPA).” This is likely the closest anyone will get to placing DARPA’s fingerprints on the covid corpse, because as Peter Daszak of the EcoHealth Alliance, which proposed this research, told Lerner, “The DARPA proposal was not funded. Therefore, the work was not done. Simple.” But as some have noted, often lab work on a project begins before it gets funding, soooo….

Lerner details the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases involvement in coronavirus research, which raises lots of questions about covid’s origins. But whether or not covid actually originated in a lab is debatable and probably a debate we don’t want to have, since it so speedily degenerates into western warmongering blame on China. Or at least it did under Trump, and there’s zero reason to assume Biden would behave differently.

So, covid origins aside, I think we can all agree that gain-of-function research should be banned. That’s the research that makes viruses more lethal or contagious and that geniuses who run biolabs – the pentagon – never seem to think could escape from those facilities. And while we’re banning things, biological weapons research should be at the top of the list. Oh, I know, supposedly our government doesn’t do that, but let’s cut the nonsense: everybody knows it does. So on the chance that we owe covid mass death to gain-of-function government research, let’s get rid of that research once and for all and pronto.

Luckily for us, neither DARPA nor NIH has sponsored any work on monkeypox. Lately. That we know of. If they had, the disease might be far more infectious, as in airborne, like a certain other deadly virus that shall remain nameless. And did I mention that we should shut down all defense biolabs? Like the ones the Russians found in Ukraine, whose existence neo-con Victoria Nuland confirmed publicly to congress? The video of her confirmation of this shocking fact went viral, for good reason. It contradicted corporate media’s whoops and hollers that anything to do with these 30 some pentagon biolabs in Ukraine was nefarious Russian propaganda. It wasn’t propaganda. And the person, Nuland, perhaps more responsible than any other westerner for the current Ukraine war, due to helping engineer the 2014 Kiev coup, blurted out the truth. She would know. So now’s a good time to repeat the aforementioned: defund all U.S. military bioweapons lab work now and all similar research being done in foreign countries by the pentagon – before a lethal, highly contagious virus escapes and kills millions of people. You know, something like a coronavirus.

But that’s not monkeypox. It only occasionally kills people. And we know it lurked exclusively in the rain forests of Central and Western Africa until about 20 years ago. That’s when six rodents imported from Ghana brought monkeypox to the U.S. But alas, monkeypox is mutating. It’s doing so very fast, according to a Nature Medicine study. How fast? Well, it mutated 50 times since 2018. This mutating strain is West African, with a mortality rate lower than one percent. So we dodged the Central African bullet, which features death rates up to 10 percent. No bioengineering that we know of, so maybe tens of millions of people won’t die.

Eve Ottenberg is a novelist and journalist. Her latest book is Hope Deferred. She can be reached at her website.