The World Health Organization (WHO) has provided an update on the monkeypox situationas confirmed and apparent cases continue to rise across the world.
Confirmed cases have now exceeded 550, across countries where the disease is not endemic. The UK is still the toughest, with 106 cases reported by the WHO on Sunday climbing to 179, according to the UK Health Security Agency. Portugal registered 49 cases, while in North America, Canada registered 26 cases and the United States reported 10.
Although monkeypox sees a relatively high number of cases a year where it is endemic – the Democratic Republic of the Congo saw 1,284 cases from January 1 to May 8, 2022, the WHO notes – what is unusual is to see cases outside countries where it is endemic, and there is no natural reserve of animals that contain the disease.
“What we’re seeing now is really completely different,” said Rosamund Lewis, Technical Leader for Monkeypox at the WHO Health Crisis Program. told CNN. “We see cases all appearing in a relatively short period of time. We see that in a few days, in a few weeks, we see more than 500 cases. This is different. This has not been seen before.”
Although cases are already high, the WHO notes that cases should be expected higher still while surveillance is expanding in countries where the disease is non-endemic. While stressing that the overall risk to public health is “moderate,” the WHO said the risk could become high if the disease establishes itself as a human pathogen, or if it spreads to vulnerable groups such as young children or the immunocompromised.
They add that “there is likely to be little immunity to monkeypox among people living in non-endemic countries because the virus has not been previously identified in those populations.” Vaccines that give immunity to monkeypox include smallpox vaccinesmeaning that so far only older members of society can have that protection, as the world stopped vaccinating after the similar (though more deadly) disease was declared extinct in 1980.
“Smallpox and smallpox vaccines, where available, are being deployed in a limited number of countries to manage close contacts,” the WHO said in its update. “Although smallpox vaccines have been shown to be protective against monkeypox, there is also one vaccine approved for the prevention of monkeypox. was approved for the prevention of monkeypox in Canada and the United States of America. “
The focus of health authorities around the world remains on monitoring and contact tracking to prevent further spread of the disease. As well as concerns about human-to-human transmission – which the evidence suggests is already happening – some are concerned that another animal or animals could act as a reservoir of disease.
“The natural reservoir of monkeypox remains uncharacteristic to this day. However, rodents and rabbits may be susceptible to monkeypox. Cats and dogs are unlikely to become infected with monkeypox. Transmission to pets such as hamsters, guinea pigs, chinchillas or rabbits should be avoided. because they would probably be sick, and could transmit the virus to other people in the household, “said Professor Francois Balloux, Professor of Computer System Biology and Director of the UCL Genetic Institute. said Science Media Center.
Balloux explains that the risk of monkeypox becoming a stable reservoir in pets is low, as it requires ongoing animal-to-animal contact that only occurs in nature or livestock.
“The emergence of a monkeypox reservoir outside Africa would require spillage into commensal rodents, such as rats or mice or wild ones,” he added. “That would be a very unwelcome development, but not likely to involve a medium delivery. An event with domestic pets.”