Monkeypox cases reported could be peak of the iceberg, warns WHO

·2-min read
Stock image: The right arm and torso of a patient overseas whose skin displays a number of lesions due to what had been an active case of monkeypox  (AP)
Stock image: The right arm and torso of a patient overseas whose skin displays a number of lesions due to what had been an active case of monkeypox (AP)

The monkeypox cases reported could be the peak of the iceberg, the World Health Organisation‘s director of pandemic and epidemic diseases has warned.

Cases of monkeypox in the UK have now topped more than 100 as there are a total of 106 infections reported, according to the latest government data available.

Now the WHO said nearly 200 cases of monkeypox have been reported in more than 20 countries not usually known to have outbreaks of the disease.

Dr. Sylvie Briand, WHO’s director of pandemic and epidemic diseases, told a public briefing on Friday: “We don’t know if we are just seeing the peak of the iceberg (or) if there are many more cases that are undetected in communities.”

Different stages of Monkeypox (PA Media)
Different stages of Monkeypox (PA Media)

Monkeypox starts as raised spots which turn into small blisters filled with fluid, eventually these blisters form scabs that later fall off, according to the NHS.

It is usually mild and most people recover within a few weeks without treatment.

The virus is spread through close contact.

The outbreak has been seen across Europe, the US, Israel, Australia and beyond.

WHO’s Briand said the current situation appeared “containable”, based on how past outbreaks of the disease in Africa have evolved.

"The first sequencing of the virus shows that the strain is not different from the strains we can find in endemic countries and (this outbreak) is probably due more to a change in human behaviour," she said.

High risk close contacts of confirmed monkeypox cases are being traced and advised to isolate for up to 21 days in the UK.

A smallpox vaccine is being offered in the UK to close contacts to reduce their risk of symptoms and severe illness.

There is no vaccine specifically developed for monkeypox but WHO said smallpox vaccines are about 85 per cent effective.

Dr. Rosamund Lewis, head of WHO’s smallpox department, said “there is no need for mass vaccination” because monkeypox typically requires skin-to-skin contact for transmission.

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