WHO expects more cases of monkeypox to emerge worldwide

A section of skin tissue harvested from a lesion on the skin of a monkey infected with monkeypox virus is seen at 50x magnification on day four of skin rash development in 1968. CDC/Handout via REUTERS

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LONDON, May 21 (Reuters) – The World Health Organization said it expects to identify more cases of monkeypox as it expands surveillance in countries where the disease is typically not found.

As of Saturday, 92 confirmed cases and 28 suspected cases of monkeypox have been reported from 12 member states that are not endemic to the virus, the UN agency said, adding it will provide further guidance and recommendations to countries on how to spread the virus in the coming days. can reduce. the spread of monkeypox.

“Available information suggests that human-to-human transmission occurs in people in close physical contact with cases that are symptomatic,” the agency added.

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Monkeypox is a contagious disease that is usually mild and endemic to parts of West and Central Africa. It is spread by close contact, so it can be contained relatively easily by measures such as self-isolation and hygiene. See EXPLAINER: read more

“What seems to be happening now is that it has entered the population as a sexual form, as a genital form, and is spreading as well as sexually transmitted infections, amplifying its transmission around the world,” WHO official David Heymann, a infectious disease specialist, told Reuters.

Heymann said an international committee of experts met via videoconference to look at what to study and communicate to the public about the outbreak, including whether there is an asymptomatic spread, who is most at risk and the different routes of transmission.

He said the meeting had been called “because of the urgency of the situation”. The committee is not the group that would propose declaring a public health emergency of international concern, WHO’s highest form of alarm, which applies to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said close contact was the main route of transmission, as lesions typical of the disease are highly contagious. For example, parents caring for sick children are at risk, as are health professionals. That’s why some countries have started inoculating teams treating monkeypox patients with vaccines against smallpox, a related virus.

Many of the current cases have been diagnosed in sexual health clinics.

Early genomic sequencing of a handful of cases in Europe has suggested a resemblance to the strain spreading in limited fashion in Britain, Israel and Singapore in 2018.

Heymann said it was “biologically plausible” that the virus circulated outside countries where it is endemic, but had not led to major outbreaks due to COVID-19 lockdowns, social distancing and travel restrictions.

He stressed that the monkeypox outbreak was not like the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic because it is not so easily transmitted. Those who suspect they may have been exposed or show symptoms, including bumpy rashes and fever, should avoid close contact with others, he said.

“Vaccines are available, but the most important message is that you can protect yourself,” he added.

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Reporting by Jennifer Rigby and Akanksha Khushi; Editing by Pravin Char and David Gregorio

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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