WHO: Nearly 200 cases of monkeypox virus across more than 20 countries

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The World Health Organization (WHO) says nearly 200 cases of monkeypox have been tallied globally.

The cases have been found in more than 20 countries not usually known to have outbreaks of the virus.

The agency described the reported cases of monkeypox as “containable”, although many factors remain unknown and there is likely to be an undercount. Dr. Sylvie Brind, WHO’s director for pandemic and epidemic disease, said that the numbers could rise in the coming days and that this event is “unusual.”

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She said during a Friday media briefing that the spread was likely due to a change in “human behavior” instead of in the virus, although the WHO is still investigating the cause.

“There are many uncertainties about this disease and the future… because it is not clear if the transmission will stop,” she stated. She also noted that the WHO hopes for “self-limiting epidemics” and that they don’t know the extent of this disease.

Currently, Briand added, they don’t know if the world is just seeing the peak of the iceberg and that it’s hard to assess risk in communities.

Traditionally, monkeypox virus is spread by touching or getting bitten by infected wild animals in western and central Africa.

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However, the former World Health Organization’s (WHO) emergencies department leader told The Associated Press earlier this week that cases in Europe appear to have spread due to sexual activity at raves in Spain and Belgium.

Although it is not sexually transmitted, it can be transmitted through sexual contact. A significant number of cases have been reported to be gay and bisexual men.

However, Spanish authorities said Friday that cases there had risen to 98, including a woman whose infection is “directly related” to a chain of transmission that had been previously limited to men.

Caseloads in Portugal and the U.K. also rose.

To treat monkeypox, some smallpox vaccines and therapeutics are available – no vaccines have been specifically developed against monkeypox – and the WHO proposed creating a stockpile to equitably share what was available.

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Dr. Rosamund Lewis, head of WHO’s smallpox department, said that “there is no need for mass vaccination,” because monkeypox does not spread easily.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows there are 10 cases across eight U.S. states.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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