The smallpox outbreak that has been reported in 16 countries and several regions of the world can still be contained and the overall risk of transmission is low, the UN health agency said on Tuesday.
“What we know about this virus and these modes of transmission, this outbreak can still be contained; The goal of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Member States is to contain this outbreak and stop it.” , said Dr. Rosamund Lewis, head of the smallpox team, which is part of the WHO Emergency Program. “Therefore, the risk to the general public seems to be low, because we know that the main modes of transmission have been those described in the past.”
The latest data from WHO member states up to 22 May indicate more than 250 confirmed and suspected cases of monkeypox in 16 countries and several WHO regions.
Symptoms may be very similar to those experienced by smallpox patients, although clinically they are less severe, but visually dramatic, with high pustules and fever in the most severe cases that can last two to four weeks.
According to the UN health agency, this smallpox outbreak has been transmitted mainly through close skin-to-skin contact, although the virus can also be transmitted through drops of breath and contaminated bedding.
The incubation period for Monkeypox is usually six to 13 days, but can range from five to 21 days. “We do not yet have the information on whether this would be transmitted through body fluids,” Dr. Lewis noted, before urging potentially at-risk groups to “be vigilant” when in close contact with others.
In an effort to warn against stigmatization of people living with the virus, the UN health agency insisted that while most cases of infection have been related primarily to men who have sex. sex with men is probably because they are more proactive when it comes to seeking health advice. than others.
The disease “can affect anyone and is not associated with any particular group of people,” Dr. Lewis told reporters in Geneva.
Fact of life for many
He stressed that what is unusual about this outbreak is that “the countries that now report Monkeypox are countries that do not normally have outbreaks of Monkeypox.
“There are several countries where the disease is endemic: the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria and Cameroon are currently reporting cases, and there are other countries that have reported cases in the past.”
Stock of vaccinations
Although smallpox vaccination has provided protection against smallpox in the past, people under the age of 40 to 50 today may be more susceptible to smallpox infection, as smallpox vaccination campaigns they ended up worldwide after the disease was eradicated in 1980.
Although WHO member states have called on the WHO to maintain smallpox vaccine stocks in the event of a new outbreak of the disease, Dr Lewis explained that “40 years have passed and it is possible that these stocks need to be refreshed, they definitely need to be reviewed – and the WHO has been working on that and I’m looking at that now. “
There are two variants of the monkeypox virus: West Africa and Congo Basin (Central Africa). The first human case was identified in a child in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1970, and although the name Monkeypox comes from the discovery of the virus in monkeys in a Danish laboratory in 1958, it is somewhat misleading, Dr. Lewis explained. .
“Most animals susceptible to monkeypox are, in fact, rodents, giant Gambian rats, dormice and prairie dogs; – from animals to people who may be entering the forest, or who may be in contact with the virus by a zoonotic route “.