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Monkeypox confirmed cases rise to 1,600: WHO

By FnF Correspondent | PUBLISHED: 14, Jun 2022, 21:25 pm IST | UPDATED: 14, Jun 2022, 21:26 pm IST

Monkeypox confirmed cases rise to 1,600: WHO New Delhi: The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday (June 14, 2022) said that the total number of confirmed cases of monkeypox has increased to 1,600 globally and that it has called an emergency meeting to assess if the "unusual" and "concerning" outbreak is an international health emergency. While addressing a media briefing in Geneva, WHO Chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus informed that so far this year, more than 1,600 confirmed cases and almost 1,500 suspected cases of monkeypox disease have been reported to WHO from 39 countries – including seven countries where monkeypox has been detected for years, and 32 newly-affected countries.

He added that 72 deaths linked to the monkeypox virus have been so far reported from previously-affected countries in 2022. No deaths, however, have been recorded to date from the newly-affected countries, "although WHO is seeking to verify news reports from Brazil of a monkeypox-related death there", Tedros said.

The WHO Director-General also warned that the recent global outbreak of monkeypox is clearly "unusual" and "concerning".

"It’s for that reason that I have decided to convene the Emergency Committee under the International Health Regulations next week, to assess whether this outbreak represents a public health emergency of international concern," Tedros added.

He stated that WHO’s goal is to support countries to contain transmission and stop the outbreak with tried-and-tested public health tools including surveillance, contact-tracing and isolation of infected patients.

It’s also essential to increase awareness of risks and actions to reduce onward transmission for the most at-risk groups, including men who have sex with men and their close contacts," the Tedros said.

The global health body said that it does not recommend mass vaccination against the monkeypox virus.

While smallpox vaccines are expected to provide some protection against monkeypox, there is limited clinical data, and limited supply, the WHO said.

"Any decision about whether to use vaccines should be made jointly by individuals who may be at risk and their health care provider, based on an assessment of risks and benefits, on a case-by-case basis," Tedros noted.

"It’s also essential that vaccines are available equitably wherever needed," he said.

The WHO chief also said that they are working with partners and experts from around the world on changing the name of the monkeypox virus, its clades, and the disease it causes.

"We will make announcements about the new names as soon as possible," he added.

Monkeypox typically presents itself with fever, rash, and swollen lymph nodes and may lead to a range of medical complications. The disease is usually self-limiting with the symptoms lasting from two to four weeks. Severe cases can also occur. In recent times, the case fatality ratio has reportedly been around 3-6 per cent but can be up to 10 per cent. There are no reported deaths in this current spread.

Monkeypox is transmitted to humans through close contact with an infected person or animal, or with material contaminated with the virus. It reportedly is spread by rodents such as rats, mice, and squirrels.

The monkeypox disease is transmitted through lesions, body fluids, respiratory droplets, and contaminated materials such as bedding. 

The WHO said it was also investigating many cases being of people identifying as gay or bisexual.

The virus, however, is said to be less contagious than smallpox and causes less severe illness.

Vaccines used during the smallpox eradication program also provided protection against monkeypox. Newer vaccines have been developed of which one has been approved for prevention of the disease. An antiviral agent developed for the treatment of smallpox has also been licensed for the treatment of monkeypox, according to WHO.

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