Monkeypox can be stopped outside endemic countries: WHO

Monkeypox outbreaks in non-endemic countries can be contained and human-to-human transmission of the virus halted, the World Health Organization said on Monday.

Fewer than 200 confirmed and suspected cases have been recorded so far, said Maria Van Kerkhove, head of emerging diseases at WHO.

“This is a manageable situation, especially in countries where we are seeing these outbreaks happening across Europe, in North America as well,” Van Kerkhove said during a live interaction on the social networks of the United Nations health agency.

“We want to stop human-to-human transmission. We can do that in non-endemic countries.

“We are in a situation where we can use public health tools of early identification, supported by isolation of cases.

“We can stop human-to-human transmission.”

Van Kerkhove said transmission occurs through “close physical contact: skin-to-skin contact”, and most of those identified so far have not had a serious case of the disease.

Rosamund Lewis, who heads the Smallpox Secretariat of the WHO Emergencies Programme, said monkeypox has been known for at least 40 years and a few cases have appeared in Europe in the past five years in travelers from endemic regions.

However, “this is the first time that we are seeing cases in many countries at the same time and people who have not traveled to endemic parts of Africa,” she said.

She cited Nigeria, Cameroon, Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo.

“It’s mostly in the animal kingdom in forest areas. Now we see it more in urban areas,” she said.

– Mutation studies –

Lewis said it’s not yet known if the virus has mutated, but viruses in the broader group of orthopoxviruses “tend not to mutate and they tend to be quite stable.

“We don’t have evidence yet that there is a mutation in the virus itself,” she said. Virologists will study the first genomic sequences of the virus, she added.

Van Kerkhove said a major global meeting next week would discuss research, epidemiology, diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines.

Andy Seale, strategy adviser for WHO’s global programs on HIV, hepatitis and sexually transmitted infections, stressed that while the virus could be caught through sexual activity, it was not a sexually transmitted disease.

“Although we are seeing cases among men who have sex with men, it is not a gay disease, as some people on social media have tried to label it. It just isn’t. .

“This demographic is usually a demographic that really cares about medical screening…They’ve been proactive in responding to unusual symptoms.

“Anyone can get monkeypox through close contact.”

Van Kerkhove added that as surveillance expands, experts expect to see more cases.

© Agence France-Presse