Monkeypox spreads to more than 20 countries: WHO

by IANS |

New Delhi, May 27 (IANS) The monkeypox virus has spread to more than 20 countries, with about 200 confirmed cases and over 100 suspected cases in nations where it is typically not found, the World Health Organization (WHO) said.

The global health body has urged nations to increase surveillance of the infectious disease as outbreaks grow.

According to Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO's Covid-19 technical lead, more cases of the rare viral illness will likely be reported as surveillance expands, but added that the recent spread is containable, CNBC reported.

"We expect more cases to be detected. We are asking countries to increase surveillance," Van Kerkhove said during a Q&A on the global health agency's social media platforms.

"This is a containable situation. It will be difficult, but it's a containable situation in non-endemic countries."

Since the first reported case on May 7, from the UK, monkeypox has spread to North America and Europe in recent weeks. The outbreak is driven by a milder West African strain of the virus and most patients recover in a few weeks.

No deaths have been reported so far.

As per the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, the European Union (EU) has confirmed 118 cases of monkeypox. Spain and Portugal have reported the largest outbreaks in the EU with 51 and 37 cases, respectively.

The UK Health Security Agency has confirmed 90 cases of the virus.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identified nine cases across seven states, while Canadian health officials have confirmed 16 cases of monkeypox, all detected in the province of Quebec, the report said.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky noted that some patients in the US haven't travelled to countries with active outbreaks, suggesting that the virus is spreading domestically.

Health officials in these countries have said a majority the patients are gay or bisexual men, with the virus spreading in many cases through sex.

However, the officials emphasised that monkeypox can spread to anyone through close physical contact regardless of sexual orientation.

But, monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted disease. The virus can spread through any kind of sustained skin-to-skin contact with an infected person who has a lesion.

It can also spread through body fluids, contaminated bed sheets and clothing, or respiratory droplets if a person has a lesion in their mouth.

Van Kerhkove suggested health-care professionals to consider monkeypox a diagnosis for patients with rash illnesses that present at sexual health clinics, emergency departments, infectious disease clinics, primary-care physicians and dermatologists, the report said.

"It doesn't mean that anyone with a rash will have monkeypox but we need to raise awareness about what monkeypox is and isn't, and we need to ensure that countries have the capacity to test and provide the right information."

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