How contagious is monkeypox? R number vs. COVID

On Tuesday, 237 suspected and confirmed cases of monkeypox were reported outside of Africa as the virus spread to the United Arab Emirates and the Czech Republic for the first time in that outbreak. Cases of the contagious disease are a cause for concern as the world continues to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

As cases continue to rise, governments are warning citizens to be vigilant, with some recommending that those infected and their contacts self-isolate to prevent further spread.

Jennifer McQuiston, an official at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told reporters Monday, “This is not COVID. It’s not a situation where you pass someone at the grocery store and you’re at risk of monkeypox.”

virus on hands
Monkeypox is not considered as communicable as COVID, according to health experts. This stock image shows a magnifying glass revealing virus particles on a person’s hands.

The way scientists mark the spread of a virus between people is by identifying its R number, also known as R0. The R number of a virus refers to how many people an infected person later infects. So if a virus has an R number of 3, a person who gets it will infect, on average, three other people.

For example, the R number for the Omicron BA.2 variant of COVID was calculated to be around 12 by Professor Adrian Esterman, Chair of Biostatistics at the University of South Australia. March.

The R number for monkeypox is believed to be significantly lower. According to a study published in Bulletin of the World Health Organization Journal in 2020, an R-number of approximately 2.13 was calculated for monkeypox, based on data collected between 1966 and 1984 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Other estimates vary. Andrea McCollum, chief of the smallpoxvirus epidemiology team in the CDC Division of Pathogens and Serious Consequence Pathology, told medical news outlet Stat last week: “We don’t have any real estimates of R-naught for the West African group. Most of our estimates come from the Congo Basin. And most of these estimates are below 1.”

She added that even a virus with an R number less than 1 can still be transmitted between people.

In short, the R number of monkeypox is debated but believed to be far lower than that of COVID and therefore less easily spread.

“It’s not as highly transmissible as something like smallpox or measles, or certainly not COVID,” Anne Rimoin, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, told Vox. How contagious is monkeypox? R number vs. COVID

Rick Schindler

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