GENEVA– The World Health Organization (WHO) says that it is working closely with countries worldwide where rare viral disease monkeypox cases have been reported.
The UN agency, in a statement, said that there were around 80 cases confirmed so far, across 11 countries, with a further 50 cases pending investigation.
The disease has also sparked concern in the Caribbean; on Friday, the authorities in Trinidad and Tobago urged people who have traveled to countries where the Monkeypox virus has been detected and “are symptomatic” to visit their nearest health provider.
Cases of Monkeypox are being investigated in several European countries and the United States, Canada, and Australia. Cases have also been reported in Belgium, France, and Germany.
WHO said monkeypox occurs primarily in tropical rainforest areas of Central and West Africa, but outbreaks have emerged in other parts of the world in recent days. Symptoms include fever, rash, and swollen lymph nodes.
WHO said it was “working with the affected countries and others to expand disease surveillance to find and support people who may be affected and provide guidance on managing the disease.”
The UN health agency stressed that monkeypox spreads differently from COVID-19 and has encouraged all people “to stay informed from reliable sources, such as national health authorities” on the extent of an outbreak in their communities.
WHO said in an earlier statement that at least eight countries are affected in Europe – Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
Dr. Hans Kluge, Europe Regional Director for the UN agency, said the cases are atypical, citing three reasons.
He said all but one are not linked to travel to endemic countries. Many were detected through sexual health services and are among men who have sex with men. Furthermore, it is suspected that transmission may have been ongoing, as the cases are geographically dispersed across Europe and beyond.
“Monkeypox is usually a self-limiting illness, and most of those infected will recover within a few weeks without treatment,” Kluge said. “However, the disease can be more severe, especially in young children, pregnant women, and immunocompromised individuals.”
WHO said it is working with the concerned countries, including determining the likely source of infection, how the virus is spreading, and how to limit further transmission.
Countries are also receiving guidance and support on surveillance, testing, infection prevention and control, clinical management, risk communication, and community engagement.
WHO said the monkeypox virus is mainly transmitted to humans from wild animals such as rodents and primates.
It is also spread between humans during close contact – through infected skin lesions, exhaled droplets, or body fluids, including sexual connection – or through contact with contaminated materials such as bedding, WHO said.
It said people suspected of having the disease should be checked and isolated.
“As we enter the summer season in the European Region, with mass gatherings, festivals, and parties, I am concerned that transmission could accelerate, as the cases currently being detected are among those engaging in sexual activity, and the symptoms are unfamiliar to many,” said Dr. Kluge.
He added that handwashing and other measures implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic are also critical to reducing transmission in healthcare settings.
What an unpleasant looking illness. Western caucasian Gentile men and women students of virology must stop weaponising pathogens.