WHO confirms 131 monkeypox cases in Europe, US

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The World Health Organisation said it had confirmed 131 cases of monkeypox with 106 cases still suspected since the outbreak of the virus in early May.

Seventeen countries where monkeypox is non-endemic have reported cases so far. In non-endemic countries, one case is considered an outbreak.

Countries that have reported cases are Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, the UK, US, Austria, Denmark, Israel, Scotland and Switzerland.

WHO had said that the identification of confirmed and suspected cases of monkeypox with no direct travel links to an endemic area represents a highly unusual event

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Monkeypox is a usually mild viral infection that is endemic in parts of the west and central Africa. The West African strain of monkeypox which has also been identified in the current outbreak has a mortality rate of about one percent.

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According to the WHO, current available evidence suggests that those who are most at risk are those who have had close physical contact with someone with monkeypox, while they are symptomatic.

The UN organisation also added that cases have mainly but not exclusively been identified amongst men who have sex with men seeking care in primary care and sexual health clinics.

Speaking at the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Sylvie Briand, the WHO director for Global Infectious Hazard Preparedness, Dr Sylvie Briand, said it was unclear if the cases were the tip of the iceberg or if the peak in the transmission had already passed.

“We encourage you all to increase the surveillance of monkeypox to see where transmission levels are and understand where it is going,’’

At the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Briand reiterated WHO’s view that it was unlikely that the virus had mutated.

She, however, said transmission may be driven by change in human behaviour, especially as people are returning to socialising following the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions worldwide.

Briand also said vaccines and treatments were available for monkeypox while calling for appropriate containment measures, more research, and global collaboration into the virus.