“Emergency”: WHO expects more monkeypox cases worldwide

“Emergency”: WHO expects more monkeypox cases worldwide
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The World Health Organization (WHO) says it expects to identify more cases of monkeypox as it expands surveillance in countries where the disease is not usually present.

On Saturday, 92 confirmed cases and 28 suspected cases of monkeypox were reported in 12 member states that are not endemic for the virus, the UN agency said, adding that it will provide guidance and recommendations in the coming days. countries on how to mitigate the spread of monkeypox.

“Available information suggests that human-to-human transmission is occurring among people in close physical contact with symptomatic cases,” the agency said.

“Genital Form”

Monkeypox is a generally mild infectious disease endemic to parts of West and Central Africa. Although it belongs to the same virus family as smallpox, its symptoms are milder.

People usually recover in two to four weeks without needing to be hospitalized, but the disease is sometimes fatal.

It spreads through close contact and can therefore be contained relatively easily through measures such as self-isolation and hygiene.

“What seems to be happening now is that it has entered the population in a sexual form, in a genital form, and is spreading like sexually transmitted infections are, which has amplified its transmission around the world” , said David Heymann, head of the WHO. , specialist in infectious diseases.

Heymann said an international committee of experts met by videoconference to consider what needed to be studied about the outbreak and communicated to the public, including whether there is asymptomatic spread, those most at risk. and the different routes of transmission. .

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

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

Many of the current cases have been identified at sexual health clinics.

“You can protect yourself”

US President Joe Biden said on Sunday that recent cases of monkeypox identified in Europe and the United States were something “to be concerning”.

In his first public comments on the disease, Biden added, “It is a concern in that if it were to spread it would have consequences. They haven’t told me the level of exposure yet, but it’s something everyone should be concerned about. We are working hard on it to understand what we are doing.

He added that efforts are underway to determine which vaccine might be effective.

In the UK, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said new figures would be released on Monday after recording 20 cases on Friday.

When asked if community transmission was now the norm in Britain, UKHSA’s chief medical adviser Susan Hopkins said “absolutely”.

“We are finding cases that have no identified contact with an individual from West Africa, which we have seen before in this country,” she told BBC television. “We are detecting more cases every day.”

“Relatively mild”

Hopkins said the outbreak was concentrated in urban areas, among gay or bisexual men.

“The risk to the general population remains extremely low at this time, and I think people need to be mindful of that,” she said, adding that for most adults symptoms would be “relatively mild.”

Early genomics sequencing of a handful of cases in Europe suggested a similarity to the strain which spread to Britain, Israel and Singapore in a limited way in 2018.

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

He pointed out that the monkeypox outbreak was not like the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic because it is not as easily transmitted. Those who suspect they may have been exposed or are showing symptoms – including a bumpy rash and fever – should avoid close contact with others.

“There are vaccines available, but the most important message is that you can protect yourself,” Heymann said.

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