200 Monkeypox Cases Seen in 20 Nations

UN agency says virus is 'containable'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 27, 2022 1:04 PM CDT
200 Monkeypox Cases Seen in 20 Nations
This 2003 electron microscope image shows mature, oval-shaped monkeypox virions, left, and spherical immature virions, right, obtained from a sample of human skin associated with the 2003 prairie dog outbreak.   (Cynthia S. Goldsmith, Russell Regner/CDC via AP, File)

(Newser) – The World Health Organization says nearly 200 cases of monkeypox have been reported in more than 20 countries not usually known to have outbreaks, but it described the epidemic as "containable" and proposed creating a stockpile to share the limited vaccines and drugs available worldwide. The UN health agency said Friday there are still many unanswered questions about what triggered the unprecedented outbreak outside of Africa, but there's no evidence that any genetic changes in the virus are responsible. "The first sequencing of the virus shows that the strain is not different from the strains we can find in endemic countries and [that this outbreak] is probably due more to a change in human behavior," said the WHO's Dr. Sylvie Briand, per the AP.

Earlier this week, a top adviser to the WHO said the outbreak in Europe, US, Israel, Australia, and beyond was likely linked to sex at two raves in Spain and Belgium. Doctors in the UK, Spain, Portugal, Canada, the US, and elsewhere have noted the majority of infections to date have been in gay and bisexual men, or men who have sex with men. That marks a significant departure from the disease's typical pattern of spread in Central and West Africa, where people are mainly infected by animals like wild rodents and primates, and outbreaks haven't spilled across borders. The CDC says the US has nine cases so far in seven states, reports CNN. They are Massachusetts, Florida, Utah, Washington, California, Virginia, and New York.

Most monkeypox patients experience fever, body aches, chills, and fatigue. Those with more serious illness may develop a rash and lesions on the face and hands that can spread to other body parts. As countries begin evaluating how smallpox vaccines might be used to stem the outbreak, the WHO said its expert group was assessing the evidence and would provide guidance soon. Dr. Rosamund Lewis, head of the WHO's smallpox department, said "there is no need for mass vaccination," explaining that monkeypox doesn't spread easily and typically requires skin-to-skin contact for transmission. No vaccines have been specifically developed against monkeypox, but the WHO estimates that smallpox vaccines are about 85% effective.

(Read more monkeypox stories.)

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