WHO: There are still many unknowns about monkeypox

LONDON – The World Health Organization’s top expert on monkeypox says she doesn’t expect the hundreds of cases reported so far to turn into another pandemic, but acknowledges that much remains to be done. unknown about the disease, including how exactly it spreads and whether the mass suspension. The smallpox vaccination decades ago may have somehow been speeding up its transmission.

During a public session on Monday, WHO’s Dr Rosamund Lewis said it was important to highlight that the vast majority of cases seen in dozens of countries globally have been in gay men, yet sex or men who have sex with men, so scientists can do more research. problem. She urged those at risk to be careful.

“Describing this is important because it appears to be the proliferation of a mode of transmission that may have been less recognized in the past,” Lewis said.

“We are not concerned about a global pandemic at the moment,” she said. “We are concerned that individuals may become infected with this disease through high-risk exposure if they do not have the necessary information to protect themselves.”

She warns that anyone is at potential risk of the disease, regardless of their sexual orientation. Other experts have pointed out that it was possible by chance that the disease was first detected in gay and bisexual men, and said it could quickly spread to other groups if left unchecked. .

Read more: What Is Smallpox in Monkeys and Should You Be Worried?

Last week, the World Health Organization said that 23 countries that had not previously had monkeypox have now reported more than 250 cases. On Monday, the UK reported 71 more cases of monkeypox.

Lewis said do not know whether monkey pox is being sexually transmitted or refers to close contact between people engaging in sexual activity and has described the threat to the general population as “low”.

Monkeypox is known to spread through close physical contact with an infected person, their clothing, or bed sheets.

She also warned that of the current cases, there is a higher proportion of those with lesions that are more concentrated in the genital area and sometimes almost invisible.

“You can have these lesions for two to four weeks (and) they may not be visible to others, but you can still be contagious,” she says.

Last week, a top WHO adviser said there was a potential for monkeypox outbreaks in Europe, the US, Israel, Australia and beyond. related to sex at two recent raves in Spain and Belgium. That marks a significant departure from the typical transmission pattern of the disease in the central and western regions. Africawhere humans are mainly infected by animals such as rodents and wild primates.

Monkeypox in Africa

Scientists have yet to determine whether the monkeypox outbreaks in wealthy countries could have originated in Africa, but the disease continues to make people on the continent sick.

On Monday, Congolese authorities said nine people have died from monkeypox by 2022. Dr Aime Alongo, head of Sankuru health in Congo, also said 465 cases have been confirmed, leaving the country become one of the worst affected countries in West and Central Africa.

Nigerian authorities confirmed the country’s first monkeypox death this year, in addition to six others. WHO says thousands of cases are reported from Nigeria and Congo each year.

Most monkeypox patients only have fever, body aches, chills, and fatigue. People with more severe illness may develop a rash and lesions on the face and hands that can spread to other parts of the body. No deaths have been reported in the current outbreak outside of Africa.

Lewis of the WHO also said that while previous cases of monkeypox in Central and West Africa were relatively under control, it was not clear whether people could transmit smallpox to monkeys without showing symptoms. or disease that can be transmitted through the air, such as measles or COVID-19.

Read more: There is a smallpox vaccine for monkeys. Not everyone may need it

Monkeypox is related to smallpox, but has milder symptoms. After smallpox was declared eradicated in 1980, countries suspended mass vaccination programs, a move that some experts believe could help with the current spread of smallpox, because Currently, the common immunity to related diseases is very low. Smallpox vaccine also protects against smallpox in monkeys.

It’s also uncertain how much immunity people previously vaccinated against smallpox might have, Lewis said, as that was at least more than four decades ago. She said the WHO’s priority is to stop the current spread of monkeypox before the disease enters new areas.

“If we all react quickly and we all work together, we will be able to prevent this,” she predicts. “We’ll be able to stop it before it reaches the more vulnerable and before it becomes a substitute for smallpox.”

Chinedu Asadu in Abuja, Nigeria, contributed to this report

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