A file photo taken on October 18, 2018 shows a woman and her child, both of whom have been infected with monkeypox, waiting for treatment at the quarantine 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.
As of Saturday, 92 confirmed cases and 28 suspected cases of monkeypox have been reported from 12 member states that are not endemic for the disease, the UN agency said, adding it will provide further guidance and recommendations for countries on how to combat the spread of monkeypox.
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.
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What is going on now, is that it has got into the population as a sexual form, as a genital form, and is being spread as 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 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 that applies to the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said close contact was the key transmission route, as lesions typical of the disease are very infectious. Many countries have started inoculating teams treating monkeypox patients with vaccine for smallpox, a related virus, because parents caring for sick children are at risk, as are health workers.
Many of the current cases have been identified at sexual health clinics.
Early genomic sequencing of a handful of cases in Europe has 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 of the 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 stressed that the monkeypox outbreak did not resemble the early days of the COVID 19 pandemic because it does not transmit as easily. He said that those who suspect they may have been exposed or who have symptoms such as 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.