Nearly 200 monkeypox cases in more than 20 countries

LONDON (AP) – The World Health Organization says nearly 200 cases monkeypox The epidemic has been reported in more than 20 countries not normally aware of the unusual disease outbreak, but described the epidemic as “controllable” and recommended the establishment of a stockpile to equitably share the globally available Limited vaccines and drugs.

In a public briefing on Friday, the U.N. health agency said there were still many unanswered questions about how the current epidemic arose, but there was no evidence that any genetic changes in the virus were responsible for the unprecedented epidemic.

“The first sequencing of the virus shows that the strain is not dissimilar to what we have found in endemic countries, and that (this outbreak) may be more due to altered human behaviour,” said WHO’s director of pandemics Sylvie S. Dr Briand said and the epidemic.

Earlier this week, a senior WHO adviser said outbreaks in Europe, the US, Israel, Australia and elsewhere were may be related to sex In two recent orgies in Spain and Belgium. This marks a dramatic departure from the typical pattern of transmission of the disease in central and western Africa, where people are primarily infected with animals such as wild rodents and primates, and outbreaks have not crossed borders.

Spanish authorities said on Friday that the number of cases there had risen to 98, including a woman whose infection was “directly linked” to a chain of transmission previously limited to men, according to Madrid regional officials.

Doctors in the UK, Spain, Portugal, Canada, the US and elsewhere note that most infections so far have occurred in Gay and bisexual men, or men who have sex with men. The disease is unlikely to affect people because of their sexual orientation, and scientists have warned that the virus could infect others if the spread is not curbed.

Based on the evolution of past disease outbreaks in Africa, the current situation appears to be “manageable,” WHO’s Brian said.

However, she said the WHO expects to report more cases in the future, noting that “we don’t know if we’re just seeing the top of the iceberg (or) if there are more cases going undetected in the community,” she said .

As countries including the U.K., Germany, Canada and the U.S. begin evaluating how to use a smallpox vaccine to contain the outbreak, the WHO said its expert team is evaluating the evidence and will provide guidance soon.

Dr Rosamund Lewis, head of the WHO’s smallpox unit, said there was “no need for mass vaccination”, explaining that monkeypox is not easily transmitted and usually requires skin-to-skin contact to spread. There is no vaccine developed specifically for monkeypox, but the WHO estimates that the smallpox vaccine is about 85 percent effective.

Countries with vaccine supplies could consider offering vaccines to those at high risk of disease, such as close contacts of patients or health workers, but monkeypox can be controlled primarily through contact isolation and ongoing epidemiological investigations, she said.

Given the limited global supply of a smallpox vaccine, WHO emergencies chief Dr Mike Ryan said the agency would work with its member countries to potentially develop a centrally controlled stockpile similar to the one it helped distribute during yellow fever outbreaks , meningitis and cholera in unaffordable countries.

“We’re talking about providing vaccines for targeted vaccination campaigns and targeted treatments,” Ryan said, “so the numbers don’t necessarily need to be large, but each country may need access to small amounts.”

Most monkeypox sufferers experience only fever, body aches, chills, and fatigue. People with more severe disease may develop rashes and lesions on the face and hands that may spread to other parts of the body.

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Ashifa Kassam contributed to this report in Madrid.

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