With the World Health Organization's count of confirmed cases worldwide hitting 257, "the world has an opportunity to stop this outbreak," an official said Monday. "There is a window," said Rosamund Lewis, the organization's technical lead on monkeypox. Another 120 cases are suspected in 23 countries, CNN reports. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the US reported 12 cases in eight states as of Friday. Asked at a press conference Monday whether the monkeypox outbreak could become a pandemic, per CNBC, Lewis said the WHO doesn't think that will happen, but "the answer is we don't know."
The danger to the public is low, WHO officials said, adding that they don't want the world thinking it's dealing with, in effect, another COVID-19—or something even more hazardous. "This monkeypox disease is not COVID-19, it is a different virus," said the WHO's Sylvie Briand. Still, Lewis said, the increase in cases is a concern. She called for vigilance in spotting symptoms, which usually are flu-like and mild, though they also can include back pain and rashes. Gay and bisexual men should be especially alert to symptoms, Lewis said; many of the cases so far have found among men who had sex with other men. Monkeypox can spread through contact during sex when an active rash is present, though it's not a sexually transmitted disease.
Planning has begun in the US to expand PCR testing for the monkeypox virus. A broader test for monkeypox, smallpox, and other viruses is in use now, per CNN. Roche and Abbott said they'll make a monkeypox-specific test available. The CDC said it's looking into how to distribute the tests to the states. One expert said he doesn't expect the sort of testing snags the nation dealt with in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic; health experts have known about monkeypox for decades. (Read more monkeypox stories.)