WHO expert says monkeypox will not turn into pandemic, but many unknown

LONDON (AP) – The World Health Organization’s leading monkeypox expert said she did not expect the hundreds of reported cases to date to turn into another pandemic, but acknowledged that there are still many unknowns about. disease, including how exactly it is spreading and whether the discontinuation of mass immunization against smallpox decades ago could somehow accelerate its transmission.

In a public session on Monday, WHO’s Dr Rosamund Lewis said it is crucial to point out that the vast majority of cases observed in dozens of countries around the world involve gays, bisexuals, or men having sex with men, so that scientists can study the problem further and for populations at risk to take precautions.

“It is very important to describe this because it appears to be an increase in a mode of transmission that may have been under-recognized in the past,” said Lewis, WHO technical lead on monkeypox.

However, he warned that anyone is at potential risk of contracting the disease, regardless of their sexual orientation. Other experts have pointed out that it may be accidental that the disease was first detected in gay and bisexual men, saying it could quickly spread to other groups if not curbed. To date, WHO said 23 countries that previously did not have monkeypox have reported more than 250 cases.

Lewis said it is not known whether monkeypox is transmitted by sex or only by close contact between people who engage in sexual activity and described the threat to the general population as “low.”

“It is not yet known whether this virus is exploiting a new mode of transmission, but what is clear is that it continues to exploit its well-known mode of transmission, which is close physical contact,” Lewis said. Monkeypox is known to spread when there is close physical contact with an infected person or their clothing or bedding.

A nurse prepares a PCR for the monkeypox test, at Ramon y Cajal hospital, May 30, 2022, in Madrid, Spain.

Europe press reports via Getty Images

He also warned that among current cases there is a higher percentage of people with fewer lesions who are more concentrated in the genital region and sometimes nearly impossible to see.

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

Last week, a leading WHO adviser said the outbreak in Europe, the United States, Israel, Australia and beyond was likely linked to sex in two recent raves in Spain and Belgium. This marks a significant departure from the typical pattern of disease spread in Central and West Africa, where people are primarily infected with animals such as rodents and wild primates, and epidemics have not spread beyond borders.

Most monkeypox patients experience only fever, body aches, chills, and fatigue. People with more serious illnesses can 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.

Lewis of the WHO also said that while previous cases of monkeypox in Central and West Africa have been relatively small, it was unclear whether people could spread monkeypox without symptoms or if the disease could be dispersed into the world. air, such as measles or COVID-19.

Monkeypox is related to smallpox but has milder symptoms. After smallpox was declared eradicated in 1980, countries suspended their mass immunization programs, a move that some experts believe may help the spread of monkeypox, as there is now little widespread immunity to related diseases; Smallpox vaccines are also protective against monkeypox.

Lewis said it would be “unfortunate” if monkeypox were able to “exploit the immune gap” left by smallpox 40 years ago, saying there was still a window of opportunity to shut down the outbreak so that smallpox monkeys did not take root in new regions.

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