More than 80 cases of monkeypox have been confirmed in at least 12 countries.
The World Health Organization said another 50 suspected cases were being investigated – without naming countries – and warned that more cases were likely to be reported.
Infections have been confirmed in nine European countries, as well as the United States, Canada and Australia.
Monkeypox is most prevalent in remote areas of Central and West Africa.
It’s a rare viral infection that’s usually mild and most people recover from it within weeks, according to the UK’s National Health Service.
The virus does not spread easily between people and the risk to the general public would be very low.
There is no specific vaccine against monkeypox, but a smallpox vaccine provides 85% protection since the two viruses are quite similar.
So far, public health agencies in Europe have confirmed cases in the UK, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Italy and Sweden.
In a statement Friday, the WHO said the recent outbreaks “are atypical, as they occur in non-endemic countries.”
He said he was “working with affected countries and others to expand disease surveillance to find and support those who may be affected”.
It is not yet clear why this unusual outbreak is happening now.
One possibility is that the virus has changed in some way, although there is currently little evidence to suggest it is a new variant.
Another explanation is that the virus found itself in the right place at the right time to thrive.
Monkeypox can also spread more easily than in the past when the smallpox vaccine was widely used.
WHO Regional Director for Europe, Hans Kluge, warned that “as we enter the summer season… with mass gatherings, festivals and parties, I fear transmission will accelerate. “.
He added that all but one of the recent cases had no relevant travel history to areas where monkeypox was endemic.
The first case of the disease in the UK was reported on May 7. The patient had recently traveled to Nigeria, where he is believed to have caught the virus before traveling to England, the UK Health Security Agency said.
There are now 20 confirmed cases in the UK, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said on Friday.
British authorities said they had purchased stocks of the smallpox vaccine and started offering it to people “at greater risk” of monkeypox.
Spanish health authorities are also believed to have purchased thousands of smallpox vaccines to deal with the outbreak, according to Spanish newspaper El País.
Australia’s first case has been detected in a man who fell ill after traveling to the UK, the Victoria Department of Health has said.
In North America, health officials in the US state of Massachusetts confirmed that a man was infected after recently traveling to Canada. It was in “good condition” and “presents no risk to the public”, officials said.
- World Health Organization (WHO)
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