WHO | No monkeypox pandemic, but questions remain

(LONDON) There will be no monkeypox pandemic, the World Health Organization’s leading expert predicted on Monday, but several questions remain unanswered, including exactly how the disease spreads and whether vaccines developed against smallpox decades ago are inadvertently preventing its transmission could accelerate.

Posted at 10:59 am

Maria Cheng
Associated Press

In a public hearing on Monday, Dr. Rosamund Lewis said it’s important to remember that the vast majority of cases detected in dozens of countries have been in gay or bisexual men, so scientists can investigate the issue more thoroughly and that risk groups can take precautions.

“It is very important to describe this as it appears to be an increase in a transmission route that may have been underrecognized in the past,” said Dr. Lewis.

Despite everything, she warned that everyone is potentially at risk of the disease, regardless of their sexual orientation. Other experts have cautioned that the disease may have been accidentally first discovered in gay and bisexual men and could spread to other groups if left unchecked. To date, according to the WHO, more than 250 cases have been identified in 23 countries where monkeypox had never been detected before.

dr Lewis acknowledged that it is not known whether monkeypox is transmitted during sexual activity or through close contact during sexual activity. It affirms that the risk to the general population is “low”.

“It is not yet known if this virus uses a new transmission route, but it is clear that it continues to use its known transmission route, which is close physical contact,” she said.

Monkeypox is known to be spread through close physical contact with the infected person, their clothing, or their bedding.

She also warns that in current cases we are seeing a higher proportion of people with fewer lesions that are more concentrated in the genital area and are sometimes not visible.

“You can have these lesions for two or four weeks (and) they may not be visible to others, but you could still be contagious,” warned Dr. Lewis.

Last week, a WHO adviser said outbreaks in Europe, the United States, Australia and elsewhere are likely linked to sexual activity at two parties in Spain and Belgium.

Most victims of monkeypox experience fever, body aches, chills, and fatigue. In the most severe cases, sores develop on the face and hands, which can spread to other parts of the body. No deaths are reported at this time.

dr Lewis said that while previous monkeypox outbreaks in West and Central Africa have been relatively contained, it is not known whether asymptomatic victims spread the disease or whether the disease could be airborne, like measles or COVID-19.

Monkeypox is related to smallpox, but its symptoms are milder. After the eradication of smallpox in 1980, countries halted their mass vaccination programs. Experts believe that this could contribute to the spread of monkeypox, since the population now has little immunity to similar diseases. Smallpox vaccines also protect against monkeypox.

dr Lewis said it would be “a shame” if monkeypox could exploit the “immune vacuum” left by smallpox 40 years ago. She assured that it was still possible to prevent monkeypox from spreading to new areas.

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