(CTN News) – A rising number of cases of monkeypox has been reported in Europe and elsewhere, a type of viral infection more common in the west and central parts of Africa.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) reports that 92 confirmed cases and 28 suspected cases of monkeypox have been reported from 12 nonendemic member states as of Saturday.
As it expands surveillance in countries where monkeypox is not typically found, the UN agency said it expects to identify more cases. It will provide further guidance and recommendations for countries in the coming days on how to mitigate the spread of monkeypox.
Currently, the following is known about the current outbreak and the relative risk of monkeypox:
How dangerous is the monkeypox virus?
US public health officials told reporters at a Friday briefing that the risk to the general public is low at this time.
The monkeypox virus can cause symptoms such as fever, aches, and a distinct bumpy rash.
It is similar to smallpox, but is typically less severe, especially the West African strain of the virus that was detected in a U.S. case, which has a fatality rate of about 1%. The official said that most people fully recover in two to four weeks.
Unlike SARS-CoV-2, which caused the global COVID-19 pandemic, COVID-19 is not as easily transmitted.
Monkeypox is believed to be spread through close, intimate skin-to-skin contact with someone who has an active rash. This should make its spread easier to contain once infections are identified, experts said.
COVID is highly contagious and spreads through the respiratory route. “This does not seem to be true for monkeypox,” said Dr Martin Hirsch of Massachusetts General Hospital.
“What appears to be happening now is that it has become part of the population as a sexual form, as a genital form, and that it is being spread like sexually transmitted infections, amplifying its spread worldwide,” WHO official David Heymann, a disease expert, told Reuters.
Why are health experts concerned?
According to the WHO, the recent outbreaks appear atypical, as they are occurring in countries where the virus is rarely seen. Researchers are attempting to understand the origins of the current outbreaks and whether anything about the virus has changed.
The majority of cases have been reported in the UK, Spain, and Portugal. As well as Canada and Australia, there was a case of monkeypox confirmed in Boston, and public health officials believe more cases will appear in the U.S.
As people gather for festivals, parties, and holidays during the summer months in Europe and elsewhere, the World Health Organization is concerned that more infections may occur.
How can people protect against infection?
The UK has begun inoculating healthcare workers who may be at risk while caring for patients with the smallpox vaccine, which can protect them against monkeypox as well. The US government claims to have enough smallpox vaccine in its Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) to vaccinate the entire population.
According to US Department of Health and Human Services, there are antiviral drugs for smallpox that could also be used to treat monkeypox in certain circumstances.
People should avoid close personal contact with anyone who has a rash illness or who is otherwise unwell, according to health officials. Those who suspect they have monkeypox should be isolated and treated.
What might be behind the spike in cases?
As a virologist at the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada, Angela Rasmussen said, viruses are nothing new and expected.
Rasmussen cited increased global travel as well as climate change as factors accelerating virus emergence and spread. In the wake of the COVID pandemic, everyone is also more cautious about any new outbreaks, she added.