WHO says monkeypox can spread beyond communities of gay and bisexual men

The World Health Organization on Monday cautioned against complacency in the rapidly escalating monkeypox outbreak, saying there is no guarantee that the virus will continue to spread within specific communities.

The UN health agency said that although cases have so far been mainly concentrated within gay and bisexual communities, there is little evidence that the disease will be confined to those groups.

Rather, their early detection could be a harbinger of a wider outbreak.

“At the moment, cases continue to appear among men who have sex with men, but we shouldn’t expect that to be the case,” Dr Katherine Smallwood, senior WHO emergency official, told CNBC’s “Street.” Europe signs.”

“It may actually be the canaries in the mine warning us of the danger of a new disease.

Dr. Katherine Smallwood

World Health Organization senior emergency official

Smallwood said it is not unusual for a virus outbreak to begin in a particular group or setting before spreading more widely in the general population, noting that health officials can take cues from early findings.

“It may actually be the canaries in the mine warning us of the danger of a new disease that could spread to other groups,” she continued.

a global health emergency

The WHO on Saturday declared the virus to be A. declared Public health emergency of international concern.

The rare designation means that the WHO now sees the outbreak as a significant enough threat to global health that a coordinated international response is needed to prevent the virus from spreading further and potentially progressing into a pandemic.

“We have an outbreak that has spread rapidly around the world, through new modes of transmission that we understand very little about. For all these reasons, I have decided that the global monkeypox outbreak is of international concern. represents a public health emergency,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The WHO activated its highest alert level for the growing outbreak on 23 July, declaring the virus a public health emergency of international concern.

Holly Adams | Getty Images News | Getty Images

more than 16,000 cases of monkeypox More than 70 countries have been reported so far this year, according to WHO data, and there has been a 77% increase in the number of confirmed infections from late June to early July. Europe accounts for over 80% of confirmed cases in 2022.

Men who have sex with men are currently thought to be at highest risk of infection, with almost 99% of cases outside Africa this year being reported in men and 98% in men who have sex with men. However, the WHO and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have emphasized that anyone can catch monkeypox, regardless of sexual orientation.

Symptoms of the disease – which is usually endemic to Africa – are largely mild, with most patients recovering within two to four weeks. So far this year, five people have died due to this virus in Africa, while no one has died outside Africa.

Still, Smallwood warned that more severe cases could become apparent if the virus spread to more immunocompromised groups. Young children, pregnant women and immunocompromised people are considered particularly vulnerable to viruses.

“If it spreads to other groups – particularly those most vulnerable to severe monkeypox disease, which we know are some of the groups that are more prone to severe disease – then we could see an increase in the public health impact. are,” she said.

More vaccine data needed

There are several existing vaccines and antivirals that have been shown to be effective in treating and preventing the disease caused by monkeypox. In fact, countries have already started vaccination programs for those most at risk, including America And UK among others releasing hundreds of thousands of doses.

However, such vaccines are primarily designed to treat smallpox, and Smallwood said more information is needed to determine their efficacy as the monkeypox virus continues to spread.

We do not have complete information about how effective and how effective these vaccines are against monkeypox.

Dr. Katherine Smallwood

World Health Organization senior emergency official

“We don’t have complete information about how effective and how effective these vaccines are against monkeypox,” she said.

Smallwood said the WHO’s call to declare a global health emergency would now draw more attention to the outbreak and, as a result, research into vaccines and other modalities of treatment.

“We need to be able to be confident that countermeasures that are available and potentially accessible are scaled, and we have the knowledge that we need to be really confident in their use,” he said.

WHO is not recommending mass vaccination at this time, and the US is currently reserving vaccines in its stockpile People who have confirmed or estimated risk of monkeypox,

—CNBC’s Spencer Kimball contributed to this report.