Outbreaks of monkeypox in non-endemic countries may be contained and human-to-human transmission of the virus interrupted, the World Health Organization said Monday.
Fewer than 200 confirmed and suspected cases have been recorded so far, said Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO head of emerging disease.
“This is a containable situation, particularly in countries where we are seeing these outbreaks occurring across Europe, including in North America,” Van Kerkhove said in a live interaction on the health agency’s social media channels. of the United Nations.
“We want to stop human-to-human transmission. We can do this in non-endemic countries.
“We are in a situation where we can use public health tools of early identification, supported isolation of cases.
“We can stop human-to-human transmission.”
Van Kerkhove said transmission was via “close physical contact: skin-to-skin contact” and that most of the people identified so far had not had a severe case of the disease.
Rosamund Lewis, who heads the smallpox secretariat in WHO’s emergency program, said that monkeypox has been known for at least 40 years and that some cases have appeared in Europe in the past five years in travelers from endemic regions.
However, “this is the first time that we see cases in many countries at the same time and people who have not traveled to the endemic regions of Africa,” he said.
He mentioned Nigeria, Cameroon, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
“It is found mainly in the animal kingdom in wooded areas. Now we are seeing it more in urban areas, ”she said.
– mutation studies –
Lewis said it is not yet known whether the virus has mutated, but viruses in the broader group of orthopoxviruses “tend not to mutate and tend to be fairly stable.
“We still don’t have evidence that there is a mutation in the virus itself,” he said. Virologists will study the first genomic sequences of the incoming virus, she added.
Van Kerkhove said a major global meeting next week will discuss research, epidemiology, diagnostics, therapy and vaccines.
Andy Seale, strategic consultant at WHO’s global programs on HIV, hepatitis and sexually transmitted infections, pointed out that while the virus can be caught through sexual activity, it is not a sexually transmitted disease.
“While we are seeing some cases among men having sex with men, this is not a gay disease, as some people on social media have attempted to label it. This is not the case.
“This demographic group is generally a demographic group that really cares about health screening … They have been proactive in responding to unusual symptoms.
“Anyone can contract monkeypox through close contact.”
Van Kerkhove added that as surveillance expanded, experts expected to see more cases.