Cases of monkeypox are being investigated in Europe, the US, Canada and Australia following a recent outbreak of infections.

Jepayona Delita | Publishing House of the Future Getty Images

The World Health Organization said Tuesday that the recent outbreak of monkeypox in non-endemic countries is “supportive” even as it continues to baffle health experts.

As of Tuesday, according to the health authority, there have been 131 confirmed cases and 106 suspicious cases since the first report on May 7. The cases are reported to be in 19 countries outside Africa.

The WHO said it was unclear whether the outbreak was a “tip of the iceberg” or the peak of transmission had already been reached.

Monkeypox is a rare viral infection that is endemic to Central and West Africa. It is spread by close contact with people, animals, or material infected with the virus, with symptoms including rash, fever, headache, muscle aches, swelling, and back pain.

Although most cases are mild, usually resolved within two to four weeks, health experts have been embarrassed by the recent outbreak in countries with no history and in patients who have not been contacted. with endemic countries.

Western cases are growing, primarily through sex

At least 19 countries, including the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia, Italy, Spain and Portugal, have reported cases. Belgium, where there are now four cases, on Friday became the first country to introduce mandatory isolation for patients, while the UK called for close contacts of patients to sell-isolate.

Most cases are spread through sex, the WHO said Monday. Although it is not usually considered a sexually transmitted disease, health authorities have noted a special concentration of cases among men who have sex with other men.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday warned gay and bisexual men about the need to take precautions if they were in close contact with someone who may have the virus and track down symptoms.

“Much of the recent cases in the UK and Europe have been found in gays and bisexuals, so we especially urge these men to be vigilant about their symptoms,” added Susan Hopkins, chief health adviser to the UK’s Health Agency, on Monday. .

Mutation of the monkeypox strain is unlikely

WHO Director of Global Infection Preparedness Sylvie Brian said Tuesday that it is unlikely that the virus has mutated. Rather, she said, its transfer could have been caused by a change in human behavior, especially as a result of easing the social constraints of Covid-19.

The West African strain of smallpox, which was detected during the current outbreak, has a mortality rate of about 1%.

An area of ​​skin tissue taken from a lesion on the skin of a monkey that was infected with the monkeypox virus is seen at 50-fold magnification on the fourth day of the rash in 1968.

CDC | Reuters

“We encourage you to step up your monkeypox surveillance to see where the transmission levels are and understand where it is going,” Brian added.

Jeremy Farrer, director of the global health charity Wellcome, told CNBC on Monday that the recent outbreak was atypical for the monkeypox virus.

“We never had [monkeypox] an epidemic that has spread to 15 countries in three weeks, ”Fahrer said at the World Economic Forum.

However, he added that this should not cause concern in the general public, noting that it is not yet a “risk in the style of Covid”.

“It’s not the same as saying that people in health care shouldn’t worry. It’s not the same as saying that we shouldn’t act fast. But is it a huge risk to the population? No, I don’t believe it. that’s right, today. “

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