Monkeypox may have been spreading undetected for some time, WHO says

The sudden appearance of monkeypox in several countries where the disease is usually undetected suggests both undetected transmission for some time and recent amplification events, the World Health Organization said on Sunday.

Twenty-three countries that are not endemic for the virus have reported a total of 257 confirmed cases and 120 suspected cases to WHO as of May 26, the agency said in a statement.

As of Thursday, Canada had reported 26 confirmed cases to the WHO, with another 25 to 35 suspected cases under investigation, according to the agency’s latest update on the disease released on Sunday.

The UK has confirmed 106 cases and Portugal has confirmed 49 cases, while Spain has confirmed 20 cases and another 64 suspected cases are still under investigation.

The agency added that it expects more cases to be reported as surveillance in endemic and non-endemic countries expands.

Monkeypox is a generally mild infectious disease endemic to parts of West and Central Africa. It spreads through close contact, so it can be relatively easily contained through measures such as self-isolation and hygiene.

“The vast majority of cases reported so far have no established travel link to an endemic area and have presented through primary care or sexual health services,” the UN agency said. United.

Based on current information, WHO does not recommend any international travel restrictions at this time.

Vaccination against monkeypox

The WHO said it would provide more advice on case management and infection prevention, as well as the use of vaccines, in the coming days.

Monkeypox virus is closely related to the virus that causes smallpox, which was eradicated worldwide in 1980, and the smallpox vaccine can protect people against monkeypox.

Officials in Quebec and some overseas jurisdictions have already announced plans to vaccinate people with the smallpox vaccine.

Quebec’s director of public health, Dr. Luc Boileau, said Thursday that the province would offer the vaccine — which has not been routinely offered in Canada for decades — to people at high risk of contracting the disease, such as those who have been in contact with confirmed people. case.

Officials in France and the UK have also signaled plans to vaccinate people, while the European Union is working on a joint purchasing agreement for monkeypox vaccines and antivirals.