Scott Gottlieb, the former Food and Drug Administration commissioner, said the US could still “catch up” with its efforts to contain the growing monkeypox outbreak, but warned officials that testing would need to be ramped up dramatically if the country hopes it will. virus to become an endemic threat.
Gottlieb made the comments on CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday as cases of the disease continue to spread across the country. The Biden administration declared monkey pox a public health emergency on Thursday, and there are now more than 7,500 confirmed cases of monkey pox in the United States, most of any country.
“I think there’s a potential to get this back in the box, but it’s going to be very difficult at this point,” Gottlieb said on Sunday. “We continue to look for cases in the community of men who have sex with men. It mainly spreads in that community. But there is no doubt that it has spread beyond that community at this point. And I think we need to look more broadly.”
Gottlieb went on to say that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been reluctant to extend testing recommendations to patients presenting with other conditions, such as atypical cases of shingles or herpes. The agency, he said, tested about 8,000 people a week for monkeypox out of a potential capacity of 80,000 tests during that period.
Until now, cases have been almost exclusively among gay and bisexual men, but officials have urged the public that everyone is vulnerable. dr. Anthony Fauci has said the US should work to remove any stigma surrounding the disease, but there is concern among the LGBTQ community that President Joe Biden’s administration had acted too slowly to contain the spread of monkeypox.
Vaccines are still hard to come by, and The New York Times reported last week, the Department of Health and Human Services was slow to request supplies of the inoculations during the early days of the outbreak. That stumbling means the US won’t see millions of needed doses delivered until sometime in 2023.
The only drug that can also be used to treat monkeypox, Tpoxx, is also: extremely hard to come by because of bureaucratic red tape.
HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said last week that the public health emergency would allow the government to better pool resources, noting that Biden had tapped two people to coordinate the White House’s monkeypox effort.
Gottlieb had previously said the US probably failed to contain monkeypox after stumbling over their first attempts to tackle the virus when the first case was reported in the country in May. He said on Sunday that while there is still a slim chance that a member of the general public will be affected by the disease, officials still need to test as many people as possible.
“I think the incidence of this infection in the wider community is probably still very low,” he said. “But if we want to contain this, if we want to prevent this from becoming an endemic virus, we have to look more broadly. And the worst case scenario is we’re going to test more broadly and not find it. And that would be reassuring. But we should.”