Monkeypox will not turn into a pandemic, says WHO, despite many unknowns

The World Health Organization High monkey pox The expert does not expect the hundreds of cases reported so far to turn into another pandemic, but acknowledges that there are still many unknowns about the disease.

These include how exactly it spreads and whether the suspension of mass smallpox vaccination decades ago may somehow accelerate its transmission.

In a public session on Monday, Dr Rosamund Lewis of the WHO said it was unclear whether monkeypox was transmitted through sex or simply through close contact between people engaging in sexual activity and described the threat to the general population as “low”.

The head of the smallpox secretariat of the World Health Organization, Dr Rosamund Lewis, addresses a press briefing in Geneva last week. (UN Web TV)

But she said it was essential to point out that the vast majority of cases seen in dozens of countries around the world have been in men who have sex with men, so that scientists can dig deeper into the matter and people with risk be careful.

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

“At this time, we are not concerned about a global pandemic,” she said.

“We are concerned that individuals could acquire this infection through high-risk exposure if they do not have the information they need to protect themselves.”

She warned that anyone was at potential risk of contracting the disease, regardless of sexual orientation.

The primary inoculation lesion for monkeypox infection.
The primary inoculation lesion for monkeypox infection. (Provided)

Other experts have pointed out that it may have been accidental that the disease was first detected in gay and bisexual men, saying it could quickly spread to other groups if not mastered.

Monkeypox has been known to spread when there is close physical contact with an infected person or their clothing or bedding.

To date, the WHO said 23 countries that never had monkeypox have now reported more than 250 cases.

Lewis warned that among the current cases there was a higher proportion of people with fewer lesions which are more concentrated in the genital area and sometimes almost impossible to see.

“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 said.

This electron microscope (EM) image depicts a monkeypox virion, obtained from a clinical specimen associated with the 2003 prairie dog outbreak. It was a thin section image of a human skin specimen.  On the left were oval-shaped mature virus particles, and on the right were crescents and spherical particles of immature virions.  High resolution: Click here for a high resolution image (5.21 MB) Content provider(s): CDC/ Cynthia S. Goldsmith Date created: 2003 Photo credit: Cynthia S. Goldsmi
This electron microscope image depicted a monkeypox virion, obtained from a clinical specimen associated with the 2003 prairie dog outbreak. (Photo: Cynthia S Goldsmith) (AP)

This marks a significant departure from the disease’s typical spread pattern in West and Central Africa, where people are mainly infected by animals like wild rodents and primates, and outbreaks have not crossed borders.

Scientists have yet to determine whether the monkeypox outbreak in wealthy countries can be traced to Africa, but the disease continues to sicken people on the continent.

On Monday, Nigerian authorities confirmed his first death from monkeypox this year, in addition to six other cases. The WHO said there are typically thousands of cases reported in Nigeria and Congo each year.

Most patients with monkeypox only experience fever, body aches, chills, and fatigue.

People with more severe illness may develop a rash and sores on the face and hands that may spread to other parts of the body. No deaths have been reported in the current outbreak beyond Africa.

Monkeypox has traditionally only been present in Africa or in people who have recently returned from the continent.
Monkeypox has traditionally only been present in Africa or in people who have recently returned from the continent. (AP)

Lewis of the WHO also said that while previous cases of monkeypox in West and Central Africa have been relatively contained, it was unclear if people could spread monkeypox without symptoms or if the disease could be airborne. like measles or COVID-19.

Monkeypox is related to smallpox, whose vaccines also protect against monkeypox, but have milder symptoms.


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After smallpox was declared eradicated in 1980, countries suspended mass vaccination programs, a move some experts believe could further the spread of monkeypox, as there is now little generalized immunity against smallpox. related diseases.

Lewis said he would be ‘unfortunate’ if monkeypox was able to ‘exploit the immune gap’ left by smallpox 40 years ago, saying there was still a window of opportunity to end to the epidemic so that monkeypox does not take hold in new areas.

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