The World Health Organization (WHO) said Monday that the spread of monkeypox in non-native countries could be controlled and human-to-human transmission of the virus could be stopped.
So far less than 200 confirmed and suspected cases have been recorded, said Maria Van Kerkhov, WHO’s emerging disease leader.
“This is a perceptible situation, especially in countries where we are seeing these outbreaks happening across Europe, as well as in North America,” Van Kerkhov said in a live interaction on the UN health agency’s social media channels.
“We want to stop human-to-human transmission. We can do it in non-native countries.
“We are in a situation where we can use the public health tools of early detection, to support the isolation of cases.
“We can stop human-to-human transmission.”
Van Kerkhov said the infection was caused by “close physical contact: skin-to-skin contact” and that most people identified so far had no serious cases of the disease.
Rosamund Lewis, head of the WHO emergency program’s smallpox secretariat, said monkeypox had been known for at least 40 years and had seen a number of cases among local travelers in Europe over the past five years.
However, “this is the first time we have seen cases across many countries at the same time and those who have not traveled to the local area of Africa,” he said.
He mentioned Nigeria, Cameroon, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
“It’s primarily in the wildlife realm. Now we see it even more in urban areas,” he said.
The study of mutations
Lewis said it is not yet known if the virus has mutated, but viruses of the broader orthopoxvirus group “do not tend to mutate and remain relatively stable.”
“We do not yet have evidence that there are mutations in the virus,” he said. Virologists will study the first genomic sequences of the virus, he added.
Van Kerkhov said a major global conference next week would discuss research, epidemiology, diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines.
Andy Seal, WHO’s Global HIV, Hepatitis and Sexually Transmitted Infections Program Strategy Adviser, emphasized that the virus can be transmitted through sexual activity but is not a sexually transmitted disease.
“While we do see some cases of men having sex with men, it’s not a homosexual disease, because some people have tried to label it on social media. It’s not like that.
“This population is usually a demographic that really cares about health screening … they have been active in responding to abnormal symptoms.
“Anyone can become infected with monkeypox through close contact.”
Van Kerkhov added that experts hoped to see more cases as surveillance expanded.
(This story was not edited by NDTV staff and was automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)