The World Health Organization says an outbreak of monkeypox is likely to lead to a pandemic

LONDON (Reuters) – The World Health Organization does not believe an outbreak of monkeypox outside Africa will lead to a pandemic, an official said on Monday, adding that it remained unclear whether infected people who were not showing symptoms could transmit the disease.

More than 300 suspected and confirmed cases of monkeypox – a usually mild disease that spreads through close contact and can cause flu-like symptoms and pus-filled skin lesions – were reported in May, mostly in Europe.

The World Health Organization is considering whether the outbreak should be assessed as a “Potential Public Health Emergency of International Concern” or as a public health emergency. Such an announcement, as happened with COVID-19 and Ebola, would help accelerate research and funding to contain the disease. Read more

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Asked if this outbreak of monkeypox could turn into a pandemic, Rosamund Lewis, monkeypox technical officer from the WHO’s Health Emergencies Program said: “We don’t know but we don’t think so.”

“At the moment, we are not worried about a global pandemic,” she said.

She added that once infected with monkeypox, the duration of the appearance of the rash and shedding of crusts is recognized as the contagious period, but there is limited information about whether there is any spread of the virus by people who do not show symptoms.

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She said: “We really don’t yet know if there is asymptomatic transmission of monkeypox – indications in the past have been that this is not a major feature – but this has not yet been determined.

It is understood that the virus strain involved in the outbreak kills a small portion of those infected, but no deaths have been reported so far.

Most cases have emerged in Europe rather than in the Central and West African countries where the virus is endemic, and are mostly not associated with travel.

So scientists are looking into what might explain this unusual increase in cases, while public health authorities suspect some degree of community transmission.

Some countries have begun offering vaccines to close contacts of confirmed cases. Read more

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(Covering by Natalie Grover in London). Editing by Toby Chopra, David Holmes and Alison Williams

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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