WHO chief warns growing number of monkey pox cases could push virus into high-risk groups

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that “continued transmission” of monkeypox worldwide could mean the virus begins to spread in high-risk groups, such as pregnant women, immunocompromised people and children.

The WHO said it was investigating reports of infected children, including two cases in Britain, and followed up on reports in Spain and France.

None of the cases in children were serious.

The virus has now been identified in more than 50 new countries outside the African countries where it was endemic.

Now that the number of cases is also increasing in those countries, the WHO is calling for testing to be stepped up.

“I am concerned about continued transmission because it would suggest that the virus is (getting) established and could move into high-risk groups, including children, immunocompromised women and pregnant women,” said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

According to a WHO count, there have been more than 3,400 cases of monkey pox and one death since the outbreak in May, mostly in Europe among men who have sex with men.

a hand with a scab
The WHO is calling for an increase in monkey pox testing.Photo courtesy of CDC/Getty Images

There have also been more than 1,500 cases and 66 deaths this year in countries where it is more likely to spread.

Last week, the WHO ruled that the outbreak was not yet a public health emergency, the highest alert level.

However, WHO’s emergency program director Mike Ryan said WHO is closely monitoring the outbreak and would reconvene the committee “as soon as possible” to assess whether this was still the case.

He also said the WHO was working on a mechanism to distribute vaccines more fairly after countries like Britain and the United States suggested they were willing to share their stocks of smallpox vaccines, which also protect against monkeypox.

Reuters

Posted updated

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