The Point tries to limit its coverage of nonsense except where it’s entertaining. So this has probably been the first time I typed the word, “monkeypox” (and had it autocorrected to “Morley Safer”, because that I have typed)
And this is about the things we pay attention to and why we pay attention to them.
Monkeypox may be in the news, but Florida health officials are alarmed by another, more serious outbreak — meningococcal disease.
“Meningococcal disease, to some degree, concerns me more given the severity of the disease,” said Dr. Ulyee Choe, statewide medical director for the Florida Department of Health, at a Wednesday press conference.
The meningitis outbreak in Florida, which has primarily affected gay and bisexual men, has been much more deadly than monkeypox, which has not led to any deaths in the United States, Choe said.
By contrast, 12 people have died among the 48 cases of meningococcal disease confirmed in Florida in 2022 — a 25 percent death rate, Choe said. There have been four cases in Miami-Dade and two in Broward from Jan. 1 to July 19, according to the health department.
So why do we keep talking about monkeypox and not meningitis, which is really a good deal nastier and scarier?
In June, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is working with the state health department, said the two health agencies are investigating the Florida cases, which it called “one of the worst outbreaks of meningococcal disease among gay and bisexual men in U.S. history.“
Meningococcal disease is caused by a bacteria and typically requires close contact to transmit it from one person to another, such as kissing or sharing of food or drinks. It can first feel like the flu, but quickly worsens to infect the brain and spinal cord, a condition known as meningitis. It can also get into the bloodstream.
1. America’s media and its public health bureaucracy are fundamentally unserious and ‘monkeypox’ sounds newer and more exciting.
You’re not going to get that many people clicking on a headline about meningitis. If this headline didn’t have “monkeypox” in it, fewer people would have clicked on it. And a lot more people are likely to care about or have opinions about monkeypox than meningitis.
2. Death isn’t a measure of anything
It doesn’t matter how many people die of something. What matters is how the thing slots into the trending politics of the moment. Monkeypox is good political fodder. Meningitis isn’t.
And that in summary is why the system is badly broken. The public health authorities spend all of their time virtue signaling about masks, except apparently in Florida, and posturing about massive outbreaks while failing to provide meaningful guidance and deal with the manageable crises, like this, in their actual bailiwick.
And that would require some uncomfortable and inconvenient truths about both monkeypox and meningitis.