A senior UN adviser told Reuters the World Health Organization was working on more guidelines for countries on how to reduce the spread of monkeypox amid concerns that cases could escalate further in the summer months.
The theory that the outbreak is driven by sexual contact is based on cases identified by the WHO so far, said David Heyman, chair of the WHO’s Strategic and Technical Advisory Group, which is linked to epidemics and the potential for epidemics. He led a meeting on the outbreak on Friday.
Monkeypox is an infectious disease that is usually mild and endemic in some parts of West and Central Africa. It is spread through close contact, which means that once a new case is identified, it can be relatively easily detected through measures such as self-isolation and hygiene.
Outbreaks appear to be exacerbated in 11 countries where they are not localized, scientists say. More than 100 confirmed or suspected cases have been reported, most of them in Europe.
Heyman, a professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, says experts are likely to give more guidance to countries in the coming days. Health officials in several countries have warned that cases could escalate at large summer gatherings and festivals.
“What seems to be happening now is that it has entered the population as a sexual form, as a genital form, and is spreading as a sexually transmitted infection, which has widened its transmission around the world,” Hayman said.
He said the WHO meeting was called “because of the urgency of the situation.” The committee is not a party that would recommend declaring a public health emergency of international concern, the WHO’s highest alert, which currently applies to the COVID-19 epidemic.
Instead, Heyman said the international committee of experts, who met via video conference, looked at what needed to be studied about the outbreak and contacted the public to see if there was any symptom-free spread, who was most at risk and what the different routes were. The infection is.
He said close contact was the main route of transmission of the virus because common lesions of the disease are highly contagious. For example, parents caring for sick children are at risk, as are health workers, which is why some countries have begun vaccinating teams treating monkeypox patients using smallpox, a related virus vaccine.
Sexual health clinics have been identified in many cases at present.
Early genomic sequencing of a handful of cases in Europe suggested matching the 2018 spread to a limited size in Britain, Israel and Singapore.
Heyman said it was “biologically credible” that the virus had spread beyond countries where it was endemic, but that COVID-19 lockdowns, social distance and travel restrictions had not led to a major outbreak.
He emphasized that the outbreak of the monkeypox did not coincide with the early days of the COVID-19 epidemic because it was not so easily transmitted. Those who suspect that they have manifested or who are showing symptoms, including a common rash and fever, should avoid close contact with others, he said.
“There are vaccines available, but the most important message is, you can protect yourself,” he added.