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WHO calls emergency meeting as monkeypox cases top 100 in Europe

Stock Markets May 20, 2022 08:01PM ET
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© Reuters. A section of skin tissue, harvested from a lesion on the skin of a monkey, that had been infected with monkeypox virus, is seen at 50X magnification on day four of rash development in 1968. CDC/Handout via REUTERS

By Jennifer Rigby and Natalie Grover

LONDON (Reuters) - The World Health Organization was holding an emergency meeting on Friday to discuss the recent outbreak of monkeypox, a viral infection more common to west and central Africa, after over 100 cases were confirmed or suspected in Europe.

In what Germany described as the largest outbreak in Europe ever, cases have been reported in at least nine countries – Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom - as well as the United States, Canada and Australia.

Spain reported 24 new cases on Friday, mainly in the Madrid region where the regional government closed a sauna linked to the majority of infections.

A hospital in Israel was treating a man in his 30s who is displaying symptoms consistent with the disease after recently arriving from Western Europe.

First identified in monkeys, the disease typically spreads through close contact and has rarely spread outside Africa, so this series of cases has triggered concern.

However, scientists do not expect the outbreak to evolve into a pandemic like COVID-19, given the virus does not spread as easily as SARS-COV-2.

Monkeypox is usually a mild viral illness, characterised by symptoms of fever as well as a distinctive bumpy rash.

"This is the largest and most widespread outbreak of monkeypox ever seen in Europe," said Germany's armed forces' medical service, which detected its first case in the country on Friday.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) committee meeting to discuss the issue is the Strategic and Technical Advisory Group on Infectious Hazards with Pandemic and Epidemic Potential (STAG-IH), which advises on infection risks that could pose a global health threat.

It would not be responsible for deciding whether the outbreak should be declared a public health emergency of international concern, WHO's highest form of alert, which is currently applied to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"There appears to be a low risk to the general public at this time," a senior U.S. administration official said.

COMMUNITY SPREAD

Fabian Leendertz, from the Robert Koch Institute, described the outbreak as an epidemic.

"However, it is very unlikely that this epidemic will last long. The cases can be well isolated via contact tracing and there are also drugs and effective vaccines that can be used if necessary," he said.

Still, the WHO's European chief said he was concerned that infections could accelerate in the region as people gather for parties and festivals over the summer months.

There is no specific vaccine for monkeypox, but data shows that the vaccines used to eradicate smallpox are up to 85% effective against monkeypox, according to the WHO.

British authorities said they have offered a smallpox vaccine to some healthcare workers and others who may have been exposed to monkeypox.

Since 1970, monkeypox cases have been reported in 11 African countries. Nigeria has had a large ongoing outbreak since 2017. So far this year, there have been 46 suspected cases, of which 15 have since been confirmed, according to the WHO.

The first European case was confirmed on May 7 in an individual who returned to England from Nigeria.

Since then, over 100 cases have been confirmed outside Africa, according to a tracker https://twitter.com/MOUGK/status/1527055553876348928 by a University of Oxford academic.

Many of the cases are not linked to travel to the continent. As a result, the cause of this outbreak is unclear, although health authorities have said that there is potentially some degree of community spread.

SEXUAL HEALTH CLINICS

The WHO said the early cases were unusual for three reasons: All but one have no relevant travel history to areas where monkeypox is endemic; most are being detected through sexual health services and among men who have sex with men, and the wide geographic spread across Europe and beyond suggests that transmission may have been going on for some time.

In Britain, where 20 cases have been now confirmed, the UK Health Security Agency said the recent cases in the country were predominantly among men who self-identified as gay, bisexual or men who have sex with men.

Portugal detected nine more cases on Friday, taking its total to 23.

The previous tally of 14 cases were all detected in sexual health clinics and were men aged between 20 and 40 years old who self-identified as gay, bisexual or men who have sex with men.

It was too early to say if the illness has morphed into a sexually transmitted disease, said Alessio D'Amato, health commissioner of the Lazio region in Italy. Three cases have been reported so far in the country.

"The idea that there's some sort of sexual transmission in this, I think, is a little bit of a stretch," said Stuart Neil, professor of virology at Kings College London.

Scientists are sequencing the virus from different cases to see if they are linked, the WHO has said. The agency is expected to provide an update soon.

 

 

WHO calls emergency meeting as monkeypox cases top 100 in Europe
 

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Comments (11)
George Sampoang
George Sampoang May 21, 2022 8:21AM ET
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We need Blockchain voting booths because they will Rig the machines again, bastards
Ben Bigs
Ben Bigs May 20, 2022 9:08PM ET
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Is this how the democrats plan to win the midterms?
David CA
ILoveQE May 20, 2022 9:08PM ET
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yes...another scariant and and another reason to use "mail-in-ballots" with Dominion Voting machines to help
Devin Nathaniel
Devin Nathaniel May 20, 2022 8:22PM ET
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here we go again a "designed" disease
lup sup
lup sup May 20, 2022 8:22PM ET
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Blame it on the Chinese again? Or shld we call it a Euro Virus?
Jerry Weber
Jerry Weber May 20, 2022 8:22PM ET
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lup sup i think we should call it the election virus!
George Sampoang
George Sampoang May 20, 2022 8:22PM ET
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we should call it, more purposefully intentional let out virus to lock us down again.
William Bailey
William Bailey May 20, 2022 8:19PM ET
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Gahahahq … wont help to print more for wall street
Rubber Necker
Rubber Necker May 20, 2022 7:28PM ET
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Monkeys?? Throw them a banana🐵🙈🍌🍌
John Laurens
John Laurens May 20, 2022 7:19PM ET
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WHO... OFLMFAO
Jose Cabreja
Jose Cabreja May 20, 2022 6:20PM ET
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🤡🤡🤡
Roger Miller
Roger Miller May 20, 2022 12:59PM ET
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WHO bureaucrats grasping at a mild and treatable disease in an attempt to remain relevant. The politicians won’t mind the backup distraction either, just in case Putin decides to behave.
John Martin
John Martin May 20, 2022 12:47PM ET
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Go ****** about monkeypox. We had more important than this ******
Jose Cabreja
Jose Cabreja May 20, 2022 11:22AM ET
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🤡🤡🤡
 
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