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The WHO stated on May 29 that it has received reports of 257 confirmed cases and about 120 suspected cases of the virus in 23 countries. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported 14 cases in eight states as of May 29.
“The situation is evolving rapidly and WHO expects that there will be more cases identified as surveillance expands in non-endemic countries, as well as in countries known to be endemic who have not recently been reporting cases,” the U.N. agency stated on May 29.
Asked whether this monkeypox outbreak has the potential to grow into a pandemic, Rosamund Lewis, technical lead for monkeypox from the WHO Health Emergencies Programme, said that “we don’t know, but we don’t think so.”
“At the moment, we are not concerned of a global pandemic,” Lewis said.
But the WHO also stated in its update: “The public health risk could become high if this virus exploits the opportunity to establish itself as a human pathogen and spreads to groups at higher risk of severe disease such as young children and immunosuppressed persons.”
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)
No monkeypox-related deaths have been reported in either the United States or in any of the other non-African countries. Health officials in the United States and with the WHO have previously said monkeypox, which includes symptoms of swollen lymph nodes and body lesions, doesn’t spread as well as COVID-19, a respiratory virus.
“Monkeypox virus is transmitted from one person to another by close contact with lesions, body fluids, respiratory droplets, and contaminated materials such as bedding,” the WHO stated. “The incubation period of monkeypox is usually from 6 to 13 days but can range from 5 to 21 days.”
While the virus isn’t considered to be a sexually transmitted disease, the WHO again stated that it’s being primarily spread via homosexual males. Earlier this month, the agency said there were two outbreaks at two rave-like events in Spain and Belgium.
“Early epidemiology of initial cases notified to WHO by countries shows that cases have been mainly reported amongst” homosexuals, the agency stated on May 29. “Since 2017, the few deaths of persons with monkeypox in West Africa have been associated with young age or an untreated HIV infection.”
While it’s related to smallpox, a virus that has killed tens of millions of people in pandemics throughout history, monkeypox is considered less severe, according to the WHO. The lesions and rashes eventually blister and scab over, and the illness generally lasts between two and four weeks.
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