WHO warns ‘continued transmission’ of monkeypox puts vulnerable groups at risk

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The World Health Organization says “continued transmission” of monkeypox worldwide could cause the virus to start spreading in high-risk groups, such as pregnant women, immunocompromised people and children.

The WHO said on Wednesday it is investigating reports of infected children, including two cases in Britain, and is following 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 of Africa where it is endemic. Cases are also on the rise in those countries, the WHO said, calling for more testing.

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“I am concerned about continued transmission as it would suggest that the virus is (getting) established and could pass into high-risk groups, including children, immunocompromised and pregnant women,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in an online briefing from Geneva. on Wednesday.

A logo is depicted in the World Health Organization building in Geneva, Switzerland, on February 2, 2020.

A logo is depicted in the World Health Organization building in Geneva, Switzerland, on February 2, 2020.
(Reuters/Denis Balibouse)

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. 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, Tedros said the WHO was closely monitoring the outbreak and would reconvene the committee “as soon as possible” to assess whether this was still the case. [L1N2YE0YM]

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

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