Experts say the monkeypox emergency could last for months, with the window closed to stop the spread of the disease

LONDON (Reuters) – Scientists advising the World Health Organization on monkeypox say the window is closing to halt its spread, with cases currently doubling every two weeks, raising fears that the outbreak will take several months to peak. .

The World Health Organization in Europe projected just over 27,000 cases of monkeypox in 88 countries by August 2, compared to 17,800 cases in nearly 70 countries at the last count. Read more

Scientists around the world told Reuters that forecasting beyond that is complicated, but transmission is likely to last for months and possibly longer.

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“We have to address this,” said Ann Remoen, a professor of epidemiology at the University of California, Los Angeles.

“Clearly there is an opportunity to do so,” added Remoen, a member of the World Health Organization’s expert panel on monkeypox that met last week to determine whether the outbreak constitutes a global health emergency.

The majority of committee members voted against the move, and in an unprecedented move, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declared a state of emergency anyway.

Global health experts said the action resulting from this announcement must be urgent, including increased vaccination, testing and isolation of infected people and contact tracing.

“It is clear that transmission has not been controlled,” said Antoine Flaholt, director of the Institute for Global Health at the University of Geneva, who heads the WHO’s advisory group on Europe. Jamie Whitworth, a professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said he expects cases will not stabilize for at least the next four to six months, or until those most at risk of infection or infection are vaccinated. . Sexual health organizations recently estimated that it could be around 125,000 people in the UK.

Monkeypox has been a globally neglected public health problem in parts of Africa for decades, but cases outside endemic countries began to be reported in May.

It generally causes mild to moderate symptoms, including fever, fatigue, and characteristic painful skin lesions, which resolve within a few weeks. Five people have died in the current outbreak, all in Africa.

Outside of Africa, monkeypox is spread mainly among men who have sex with men, which puts sexual health clinics on alert for new cases. Read more

Aaron Tolunay, 35, said, “I remember vividly…that I said I was going to die, because I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t drink. I couldn’t even swallow my spit.” A sexual health advocate who was hospitalized with monkeypox in London earlier this month but has since recovered.

“sustainable transmission”

Scientists said that while monkeypox does not cause significant numbers of deaths globally, the presence of a troublesome virus in new populations is still bad news.

Flaholt’s group formulated three scenarios for the coming months, all involving “continuous transmission”, either between MSM; Outside of these groups and possibly to more vulnerable populations, such as children, or between humans and animals.

The latter scenario threatens to create a reservoir of monkeypox in animals in new countries, as happened in parts of West and Central Africa, Flaholt said.

The scientists said continued transmission could also lead to mutations that make the virus more efficient at spreading between humans.

On Tuesday, German scientists released a study ahead of peer review that found mutations in one of the 47 cases they sequenced that could help monkeypox spread among humans more easily.

“The alarm was ringing (in Africa) but we kept hitting the snooze button,” said Remoen. “Now it’s time to get up and do something about it.” “Infection anywhere is potentially infection everywhere.”

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(Reporting by Jennifer Rigby and Natalie Grover) Additional reporting by Natalie Thomas in London. Editing by Michael Gershberg, Bill Bercrot and Frank Jack Daniel

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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