How Deadly Is Monkeypox? Virus Fatality Rate Compared to COVID

As health officials continue to report new cases of monkeypox, many have questioned how deadly the disease is and how it relates to COVID-19.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), "Monkeypox is a viral zoonosis (a virus transmitted to humans from animals) with symptoms very similar to those seen in the past in smallpox patients, although it is clinically less severe."

The WHO states that monkeypox was first identified in humans in 1970, and historically, the case fatality ratio has "ranged from 0 to 11% in the general population and has been higher among young children."

Monkeypox
Cases of monkeypox have been reported in several countries around the globe and according to the World Health Organization (WHO), in recent times, the case-fatality ratio of monkeypox has been around 3-6%. Above, a closeup of hands showing lesions from the monkeypox virus, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 1997. Smith Collection/Gado/Getty

Monkeypox vs COVID

"In recent times, the case fatality ratio has been around 3-6%," the WHO said in a recent document about monkeypox.

In comparison, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, the observed case fatality ratio for COVID-19, which is the number of deaths per 100 confirmed cases, is 1.2 percent in the U.S., but, this number varies across different countries.

A top professor and expert on vaccines and tropical medicine has said that the current outbreak of monkeypox should be simpler to contain than COVID-19 and noted that the disease is more easily identifiable.

See pictures of Monkeypox lesions here.

Where has Monkeypox Been Reported?

The most recent document from the WHO on monkeypox comes as new disease cases have been reported in several different countries, prompting concerns from individuals worldwide.

On May 21, the WHO published a document stating that monkeypox cases have been reported in "12 Member States that are not endemic for monkeypox virus" across three WHO regions. So far, "no associated deaths have been reported to date."

According to the document, monkeypox cases have been reported in the following countries:

  • U.S.,
  • Australia,
  • Belgium,
  • Canada,
  • France,
  • Germany,
  • Italy,
  • Netherlands,
  • Portugal,
  • Spain,
  • Sweden,
  • United Kingdom.

Is There a Monkeypox Vaccine?

There is a vaccine that can be used to treat monkeypox.

Four days ago, the U.S. government ordered millions of doses of a vaccine that protects against monkeypox.

Is Monkeypox Different Than COVID?

During a recent Q&A, Dr. Rosamund Lewis, the smallpox secretariat for the WHO explained that "monkeypox and COVID are not the same disease."

"It's caused by a different virus and it spreads in a different manner," Dr. Lewis said about monkeypox during the Q&A. "The way it does spread is through close physical contact. People who have monkeypox do develop a rash and that rash, if you touch it, that can be contagious. So it is person-to-person close contact spread when [it's] within families or within social networks where close contact happens."

In response to the reported cases of monkeypox in the U.S., President Joe Biden recently said that it was something "to be concerned about."

However, on Monday, Biden appeared to walk back his comments, saying, "I just don't think it rises to the level of the kind of concern that existed with COVID-19."

The WHO directed Newsweek to its document about monkeypox published on May 21 after reaching out for comment.