More than 200 cases of monkeypox in the world, says WHO

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported on Friday that nearly 200 cases of monkeypox have been reported in more than 20 countries not usually known for outbreaks of the unusual disease, but described the epidemic as “containable” and proposed creating a reserve for share equitably the limited vaccines and drugs available in the world.

During a briefing, the UN health agency said there are still many unanswered questions about how the current epidemic arose, but said there is no evidence of any genetic changes in the virus.

“The first sequencing of the virus shows that the variant is not different from the variants that we can find in endemic countries, and (this outbreak) is probably due more to changes in human behavior,” said the WHO director for epidemic diseases and pandemics, Dr. Sylvie Briand.

This week, a top adviser to the WHO said the outbreak in Europe, Israel, Australia and other countries was likely linked to sex at two recent rave parties in Spain and Belgium. That marks a significant departure from the stoppage of the disease from spreading in central and western Africa, where people are mostly infected by animals such as rodents and primates, and where outbreaks have not crossed borders.

On Friday, Spanish authorities said the number of cases in the country had risen to 98, including one woman, whose infection is “directly related” to a chain of transmission that had previously been limited to men, according to officials at the Madrid region.

Doctors in Britain, Spain, Portugal, Canada, the United States and elsewhere have noted that most infections so far have been in gay and bisexual men. The disease is no longer likely to infect people because of their sexual orientation, and scientists warn that the virus could infect others if transmission is not stopped.

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Briand said that based on how previous outbreaks in Africa have evolved, the current situation appears “containable.”

He added that the WHO still expects to see more cases in the future, noting that “we don’t know if we are just seeing the tip of the iceberg or if there are many more undetected cases in communities.”

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