WHO officials say smallpox outbreaks in monkeys are mainly spread through sex

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World Health Organization officials say an outbreak of monkeypox virus in North America and Europe is mainly spread through sexual contact between men with about 200 confirmed and suspected cases in at least a dozen countries, World Health Organization officials said Monday.

The outbreak quickly spread across Europe and North America last week and is expected to spread further as more doctors look for signs and symptoms. The organization said two confirmed and one suspected cases of monkeypox in the UK were reported to WHO just 10 days ago, the first cases this year outside of Africa, where the virus is located. Withdrawals have generally circulated at a 40-year low, the organization said.

“We’ve seen a few cases in Europe over the last five years, only in travelers, but this is the first time we’ve seen cases in multiple countries at once in people who haven’t been to other countries. endemic areas in Africa,” said Dr Rosamund Lewis, WHO’s smallpox research manager, in a Q&A broadcast live on the organisation’s social media channels.

European countries have confirmed dozens of cases The German military says it has become the largest ever outbreak of monkeypox on the Continent. The US and Canada each have at least five confirmed or presumptive cases to date. Belgium just introduced Mandatory 21-day quarantine for monkeypox patients.

The WHO convened an emergency meeting this weekend via videoconference to review the virus, identify those most at risk and study its transmission. The organization will host its second global meeting on monkeypox next week to more thoroughly study the risks and available treatments to combat the virus.

Although the virus itself is not a sexually transmitted disease, usually spread through semen and vaginal fluids, the most recent increase in cases appears to have spread among men who have sex. having sex with other men, WHO officials said, stressing that anyone can get the disease. monkey pox.

Andy Seale, WHO consultant on HIV, hepatitis and other diseases that can be spread through sex. You may get a cough or cold during sex. sexually transmitted diseases.

Viruses are spread through close contact with people, animals, or materials contaminated with the virus. It enters the body through broken skin, respiratory tract, eyes, nose, and mouth. Although person-to-person transmission is also thought to occur via respiratory droplets, that method requires prolonged direct contact because the droplets cannot travel more than a few feet, According to CDC.

“This is a super-stable virus outside of a human host, so it can live on objects like blankets and things like that,” Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNBC in a separate interview on Monday. the same, similar.Box of Squaw. “” And so you can see situations where people become reluctant to try on clothes, things like that, where it can become disruptive in areas that are spreading, like New York City. “

He said there will be more confirmed cases in the US in the coming weeks as doctors and public health officials reassess patients who have developed symptoms and the virus continues to spread.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, monkeypox is a disease caused by a virus in the same family as smallpox, but not as serious. However, monkeypox can kill 1 in 10 people, based on observations in Africa, According to CDC.

WHO officials say the vaccine used to prevent smallpox appears to be about 85 percent effective in protecting against smallpox in monkeys. Vaccines are not widely available, so it is important to stock them up for the populations most at risk, said Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s lead epidemiologist for zoonotic diseases. . She said WHO will work with vaccine manufacturers to see if they can ramp up production.

WHO officials say early symptoms of monkeypox include fever, headache, back pain, muscle aches and low energy. It then progresses to a rash on the face, hands, feet, eyes, mouth, or genitals, which turns into raised papules or papules, which then become blisters that often resemble chickenpox. These nodules can then fill with white fluid, become pustules, break open, and crust over.

Gottlieb describes it as a disabling illness can last two to four months and has an incubation period of 21 days.

“I don’t think this will spread uncontrollably in the same way that we have suffered from Covid-19,” Gottlieb said. “But it’s likely that this has been introduced into the community by now if, in fact, it’s more pervasive than what we’re measuring right now, that becomes difficult to remove.”

– by CNBC Spencer Kimball and Karen Gilchrist contributed to this article.

Disclosure: Dr Scott Gottlieb is a CNBC contributor and board member of Pfizer, genetic testing startup Tempus, healthcare technology company Aetion and biotech company Illumination. He is also co-chairman of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings ′ and Royal Caribbean’s “Healthy Sails Board”.

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