The World Health Organization was due to hold an emergency meeting on Friday to discuss the recent outbreak of monkeypox, a viral infection more common to west and central Africa, after more than 100 cases were confirmed or suspected in Europe.
In what Germany described as the largest-ever outbreak in Europe, cases have now been confirmed in at least five countries - the United Kingdom, Spain Portugal, Germany and Italy - as well as the United States, Canada and Australia.
First identified in monkeys, the disease typically spreads through close contact and has rarely spread outside Africa, so this series of cases has triggered concern.
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However, scientists do not expect the outbreak to evolve into a pandemic like COVID-19, given the virus does not spread as easily as SARS-COV-2.
Monkeypox is usually a mild viral illness, characterized by symptoms of fever as well as a distinctive bumpy rash.
“With several confirmed cases in the United Kingdom, Spain and Portugal, this is the largest and most widespread outbreak of monkeypox ever seen in Europe,” said Germany’s armed forces’ medical service, which detected its first case in the country on
Fabian Leendertz, from the Robert Koch Institute, described the outbreak as an epidemic.
“However, it is very unlikely that this epidemic will last long. The cases can be well isolated via contact tracing and there are also drugs and effective vaccines that can be used if necessary,” he said.
There isn’t a specific vaccine for monkeypox, but data shows that vaccines that were used to eradicate smallpox are up to 85 percent effective against monkeypox, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
British authorities on Thursday said they had offered a smallpox vaccine to some healthcare workers and others who may have been exposed to monkeypox.
The WHO committee due to meet is the Strategic and Technical Advisory Group on Infectious Hazards with Pandemic and Epidemic Potential (STAG-IH), which advises WHO on infection risks that could pose a threat to global health.
WHO calls emergency meeting as monkeypox cases cross 100 in Europe