WHO confirms 80 cases of monkeypox with outbreaks in 11 countries

This 2003 electron microscope image, provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, shows mature, oval-shaped monkeypox virions, left, and globular immature virions, right, obtained from a sample of human skin associated with the prairie dog outbreak in 2003.

Cynthia S. Goldsmith, Russell Regner | CDC via AP

The World Health Organization has confirmed about 80 cases of monkeypox with recent outbreaks in 11 countries, according to a statement from the global health agency Friday.

The outbreaks are unusual because they occur in countries where the virus is not endemic, the WHO said. More cases are likely to be reported in the coming days as surveillance expands, it said.

“WHO is working with affected countries and others to expand disease surveillance to find and support people who may be affected, and to provide advice on how to manage the disease,” the agency said.

European countries have confirmed dozens of cases of the largest monkeypox outbreak on the continent, according to the German military. The US has confirmed at least one case and Canada has confirmed two. According to the WHO, monkeypox is most commonly found in the Central and West African rainforests where animals that carry the virus live.

Monkeypox is a disease caused by a virus in the same family as smallpox, but it’s not as serious, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, according to the CDC, monkeypox can cause death in as many as 1 in 10 people who contract the disease based on observations in Africa.

The smallpox vaccine is 85% effective in preventing monkeypox based on observational studies in Africa, according to the WHO and the CDC.

Monkeypox is spread through close contact with people, animals, or material infected with the virus. It enters the body through damaged skin, the respiratory tract, the eyes, nose and mouth. While human-to-human transmission is also believed to occur through respiratory droplets, that method requires prolonged face-to-face contact because the droplets cannot travel more than a few feet, the CDC said.

Monkeypox usually begins with symptoms similar to the flu, including fever, headache, muscle aches, chills, exhaustion and swollen lymph nodes, according to the CDC. Within one to three days of the onset of a fever, patients develop a rash that starts on the face and spreads to other parts of the body. The illness usually lasts about two to four weeks.

“Since monkeypox spreads through close contact, the response must be directed at the affected people and their close contacts,” the WHO said. Caregivers, roommates and sexual partners of people with the virus are at greater risk of disease.

The CDC confirmed a case of monkeypox in Massachusetts on Wednesday. The person had recently traveled to Canada by private transport. New York City is investigating a possible case of monkey pox, according to a statement from the health department Thursday.

The US had an outbreak of monkeypox in 2003, the first outside of Africa, that was caused by human contact with infected prairie dogs kept as pets. That outbreak resulted in more than 70 reported cases.

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