In this file photo taken on October 18, 2018, a woman and her child, both infected with monkeypox, await treatment at the center of the International Medical NGO Doctors Without Borders in the Lobaya region of the Central African Republic. CHARLES BOUESSEL AFP LONDON - The World Health Organization said it will identify more cases of monkeypox as it expands surveillance in countries where the disease is not typically found.
The UN agency said 92 confirmed cases and 28 suspected cases of monkeypox have been reported from 12 member states that are not endemic for the disease, and it will provide further guidance and recommendations for countries on how to mitigate the spread of monkeypox as of Saturday.
The agency said that human-to-human transmission is occurring among people in close physical contact with cases that are symptomatic.
Monkeypox is an infectious disease that is usually mild, and is endemic in parts of western and central Africa. It is spread by close contact, so it can be contained relatively easily through measures such as self-isolation and hygiene.
ALSO READ: WHO calls for an emergency meeting to address monkeypox cases in Europe.
What appears to be happening now is that it has got into the population in a sexual form, as a genital form, and is being spread as are sexually transmitted infections, which has amplified its transmission around the world, WHO official David Heymann, an infectious disease specialist, told Reuters.
Heymann said an international committee of experts met via video conference to look at what needed to be studied about the outbreak and communicated to the public, including whether there is any asymptomatic spread, who are at most risk, and the various routes of transmission.
He said that the meeting was convened because of the urgency of the situation. The committee is not the group that would suggest declaring a public health emergency of international concern, WHO's highest form of alert, which applies to the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said close contact was the key transmission route, as lesions typical of the disease are very infectious. Some countries have started inoculating teams treating monkeypox patients with vaccines for smallpox, a related virus, because parents caring for sick children are at risk, as are health workers.
Many of the cases have been identified at sexual health clinics.
Early genomic sequencing of a handful of cases in Europe suggested a similarity with the strain that spread in limited fashion in Britain, Israel and Singapore in 2018.
Heymann said it was biologically plausible that the virus had been circulating outside countries where it is endemic, but it has not led to major outbreaks as a result of COVID 19 lockdowns, social distancing and travel restrictions.
He stated that the monkeypox outbreak did not correspond to the early days of the COVID-19 epidemic because it does not transmit as easily. He said that those who suspect they may have been exposed or who have symptoms, including a bumpy rash and fever, should avoid close contact with others.
He said there are vaccines available, but the most important message is, you can protect yourself.