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Monkeypox virus identified in more than 50 new countries, trend 'likely to continue', warns WHO

Addressing a media briefing, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that controlling the further spread of monkeypox virus requires intense response efforts.

Monkeypox virus identified in more than 50 new countries, trend 'likely to continue', warns WHO

New Delhi: The World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday (June 29, 2022) said that the monkeypox virus has been identified in more than 50 new countries and warned that the trend is "likely to continue". Addressing a media briefing, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that while the Emergency Committee did not advise that the current outbreak represents a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, they acknowledged the "emergency nature" of the event and that controlling the further spread requires intense response efforts.

"Nigeria, which has been battling an outbreak since 2017, has reported more cases this year, which could mean it matches or exceeds previous peaks. Furthermore, the virus has now been identified in more than 50 new countries and that trend is likely to continue," he said.

He also urged countries to increase surveillance by boosting testing as quickly as possible

'Concerned' about sustained transmission of monkeypox

The WHO chief said that he is "concerned" about the sustained transmission of monkeypox disease outbreak as it would suggest that the "virus is establishing itself" and it could move into high-risk groups including children, the immunocompromised and pregnant women. 

"We are starting to see this with several children already infected," he said.

 

"With large gatherings happening around the world there are opportunities to both squash the stigma around the virus and spread good information so people can protect themselves," Tedros said.

What is monkeypox disease?

Monkeypox, which was first discovered in 1958 in monkeys kept for research, is a rare viral infection similar to human smallpox. The virus belongs to the family Poxviridae, which also includes the viruses causing smallpox and cowpox disease. 

The first human case of monkeypox was reported in 1970 and the disease occurs primarily in tropical rainforest areas of Central and West Africa.

What are symptoms of monkeypox virus?

The monkeypox virus typically presents itself with fever, rash, and swollen lymph nodes and may lead to a range of medical complications. It is usually self-limiting with the symptoms lasting from two to four weeks and severe cases can also occur.

How does monkeypox virus spread?

Monkeypox is transmitted to humans through close contact with an infected person or animal, or with material contaminated with the virus. It reportedly is spread by rodents such as rats, mice, and squirrels.

The monkeypox disease is transmitted through lesions, body fluids, respiratory droplets, and contaminated materials such as bedding. 

How are monkeypox cases treated?

Vaccines used during the smallpox eradication program also provided protection against monkeypox. Newer vaccines have been developed of which one has been approved for prevention of the disease. An antiviral agent developed for the treatment of smallpox has also been licensed for the treatment of monkeypox, according to WHO.

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