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Monkeypox primarily spreading through sexual contact, but virus is containable: WHO

WHO chief urges nations to join pandemic treaty to prepare for 'Disease X' threat
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The current monkeypox virus outbreak is primarily spreading through sex among men, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), adding that the virus is “containable.”

Monkeypox, which was first reported on May 7 in the United Kingdom, has rapidly spread to over a dozen countries, including some in Central and West Africa, with approximately 200 confirmed and suspected cases. So far, no deaths have been linked to the outbreak.

Even as it expands surveillance, the WHO has warned that the infection is likely to spread to more countries. It went on to say that the discovery of confirmed and suspected monkeypox cases with no direct travel links to an endemic area “represents a highly unusual event.”

“We’ve seen a few cases in Europe over the last five years, just in travellers, but this is the first time we’re seeing cases across many countries at the same time in people who have not travelled to the endemic regions in Africa,” Rosamund Lewis, who runs the WHO’s smallpox research, said in a Q&A live streamed on the health body’s social media channels.

While the virus is not a sexually transmitted infection, which is typically spread through sperm and vaginal fluids, the most recent surge in cases appears to have been spread among men who have sex with other men, according to WHO officials, who also stressed that anyone can contract monkeypox, according to CNBC.

“Many diseases can be spread through sexual contact. You could get a cough or a cold through sexual contact, but it doesn’t mean that it’s a sexually transmitted disease,” Andy Seale, who advises the WHO on HIV, hepatitis and other sexually transmitted infections, was quoted as saying.

Monkeypox has never been identified as a sexually transmitted infection, but it can be transmitted through direct contact during sex.

Furthermore, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) stated that the likelihood of spread in the general population is extremely low, according to BBC.

However, transmission occurs primarily “through close contact, such as during sexual activities amongst persons with multiple sexual partners,” according to Andrea Ammon of the ECDC.

The WHO also stated that monkeypox can be controlled in countries other than Africa where the virus is rarely detected.

“This is a containable situation,” the WHO’s emerging disease lead Maria Van Kerkhove said at a news conference on Monday.

“We want to stop human-to-human transmission. We can do this in non-endemic countries,” she added, referring to recent cases in Europe and North America.

Despite being the largest outbreak outside of Africa in 50 years, monkeypox does not easily spread among people, and experts say the threat is not comparable to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Transmission is really happening from skin-to-skin contact, most of the people who have been identified have more of a mild disease,” Van Kerkhove said.

Following earlier speculation about the cause of the current outbreak, the WHO added that there was no evidence that the monkeypox virus had mutated.

Viruses in this group “tend not to mutate and they tend to be fairly stable,” said Lewis.

Experts have also advised countries to reconsider the availability of the smallpox vaccine, which is also effective against monkeypox.

About the author

Brendan Taylor

Brendan Taylor was a TV news producer for 5 and a half years. He is an experienced writer. Brendan covers Breaking News at Insider Paper.

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