As of Saturday, 92 confirmed and 28 suspected monkeypox cases have been reported from 12 non-endemic member states, the United Nations organization said, adding that it will provide more guidance and recommendations in the coming days for countries on how to limit the spread of monkeypox.
The agency added, “The available information indicates that transmission of infection from one person to another occurs between people who are in close physical contact with cases who show symptoms.”
Monkeypox is a contagious disease that is usually mild and endemic in parts of West and Central Africa.
It spreads through close contact, so it can be contained relatively easily through measures such as self-isolation and personal hygiene.
World Health Organization official David Heymann told Reuters that an international panel of experts met via a video conference to consider what needs to be studied about the outbreak and inform the public, including whether there is any asymptomatic spread, who is most at risk, and the different routes of transmission.
He said that close contact is the main route of transmission, because the typical lesions of the disease are highly contagious. For example, parents who take care of sick children are at risk, as are health workers, which is why some countries have begun vaccinating treatment teams for monkeypox patients with smallpox, a related virus.
Early genetic sequencing of a few cases in Europe suggests similarities to the strain that spread in a limited manner in Britain, Israel and Singapore in 2018.
Heymann said it was “biologically plausible” that the virus was spreading outside of the countries where the virus is endemic, but that it did not lead to a major outbreak as a result of COVID-19 lockdowns, social distancing and travel restrictions.
He stressed that the outbreak of monkeypox is not similar to the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, because it is not easily transmitted.
He said those who suspect they may have been exposed, or who are showing symptoms including rash and fever, should avoid close contact with others.
“There are vaccines available, but the most important message is that you can protect yourself,” he added.
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