Florida officials have reported the first case of monkeypox in a child under the age of four — the nation’s seventh overall — as fears continue to grow that the virus will spread to more vulnerable groups.
Martin County, about 100 miles north of Miami along the Sunshine State’s east coast, reported the case of the unnamed child on Monday. The incident happened during the last week. The current condition of the child and the seriousness of the case are unknown.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that children under the age of eight are among the most vulnerable to serious complications or death from monkeypox.
It is the first case in this age group found in Florida. One was reported by officials in Maine on Friday, while others were confirmed in California, Indiana and in a non-resident traveling through Washington DC.
While cases have so far been mostly concentrated among gay and bisexual men in the nationwide monkeypox epidemic, anyone is susceptible to infection. The virus is spread through physical contact with an infected person, meaning that any close contact is a potential transmission event.
The monkeypox epidemic in the US has spiraled in recent weeks. The United States has seen 11,890 confirmed infections, the most of any country in the world, including 713 on Monday. More than half of the cases were recorded in August alone. No deaths in the US have been linked to the virus.
How the Florida child contracted the virus and what symptoms he may have had is currently unknown to the public.
With the virus spreading out of control in recent weeks, it is likely that more cases will be found in young children.
Florida is one of the leading states in confirmed monkeypox infections, with 1,085 as of Monday afternoon.
Confirmed infections in the Sunshine State surged last week, rising from 633 on Monday 8 August to the four-digit mark on Wednesday 17 August.
Only two other states have seen more than 1,000 confirmed cases. New York alone accounts for more than a fifth of the national outbreak and has so far recorded 2,376 infections.
California has so far recorded 1,945 cases. Texas will likely join the dubious ranks this week, as the Longhorn State has 992 cases as of Monday afternoon.
Many officials fear that these numbers will continue to rise as the epidemic spirals out of control and potentially into the next pandemic.
Dr. Joseph Eisenberg, an epidemiologist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, said in an interview last week that he believes the emerging virus will become another pandemic in the U.S., but will not reach the same heights as COVID-19.
“Measles is the next pandemic,” he said.
“It is spreading globally through several countries, including the US. In the U.S., cases are quickly climbing into the thousands.
“However, it is a different kind of pandemic than what we see with Covid because it is much less contagious and currently affects a specific risk group that includes very close, intimate contact. So yes, it’s a pandemic, but it’s nothing like the Covid pandemic.”
However, not everyone agrees that the situation is that serious. Dr. Andrew Brouwer, an assistant research scientist at the Michigan School of Public Health, declined in the same interview.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has sensitized us to disease transmission. Other outbreaks … have received much less attention,” he said.
“That doesn’t mean we should let MPV and other outbreaks fly under the radar, but we should have some perspective that outbreaks of different diseases happen all the time and not all of them are existential threats.”
But Brouwer thinks the increased attention to the virus is helping to combat it, making the average person more aware of its spread and how to spot a potential case.
But officials appear to have been caught off guard by the outbreak, leading to an initial lack of testing and a lack of vaccines, which are still hampering the response.
When the beats became available in major population centers like New York City, appointments filled up within minutes due to extremely high demand.
To combat the shortage of the Jynneos monkeypox vaccine, federal officials plan to supply doses of the vaccine that are just 0.1 milliliters (ml), a huge drop from the standard dose of 0.5 ml.
He believes that using an intradermal injection — which injects the vaccine between the layers of skin instead of under the fat — will still be just as effective.
However, there are some questions as to whether this is the right move.
In 2015, researchers found that smallpox vaccines were just as effective when given in smaller doses when injected intradermally.
However, there was only one study conducted on 524 participants and using a different vaccine.
Paul Chaplin, CEO of manufacturer Jynneos Bavarian Nordic, published an open letter to Dr. Xavier Becerra, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, and Dr. to Robert Califf, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, in which he expressed concern about the lack of data supporting the plan.
The Danish pharmaceutical giant is calling for further tests of the effectiveness of smaller doses to be carried out before the nation overhauls its vaccination strategy.
Currently, the shots are mainly reserved for men having sex with other men – although some exposed people have been allowed the shot as a precaution.