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20 May, 2022 15:31

WHO convenes emergency meeting over rare disease outbreak – media

The international health watchdog summons experts to discuss the rapid spread of monkeypox, the Telegraph reports
WHO convenes emergency meeting over rare disease outbreak – media

The latest spread of the monkeypox virus has prompted The World Health Organization (WHO) to convene an emergency meeting, Britain’s Telegraph newspaper reported on Friday. The disease, which is typically confined to forested areas of western and central Africa, has been spreading rapidly in a number of European countries, as well as the US and Australia since early May.

According to the report, high on the meeting’s agenda are the mechanisms behind the virus’ transmission and possible vaccination strategies. Dr Mike Ryan, Executive Director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme, is reportedly attending the discussion.

The newspaper claims that the WHO is looking at whether smallpox vaccines could be used effectively to tackle the spread of monkeypox.

Meanwhile, the UK government has already ordered additional stocks of the smallpox vaccine, which is being administered to people who may have been exposed to monkeypox, the Telegraph reported. On top of the 5,000 doses the British authorities have on hand at present, an order has been placed for 20,000 more shots, according to the report.

UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid said on Friday that a further 11 cases of monkeypox had been identified, doubling the number of known infections in the country.

The newspaper report says at least six of the confirmed cases in the UK have been detected among homosexual or bisexual men. The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), however, clarified that most of the cases are not believed to be linked.

Authorities think the first individual to have tested positive for the disease in Britain had recently returned from Nigeria, the paper claims.

On Friday, Germany confirmed its first case of monkeypox, and so did France, bringing the number of countries dealing with the virus outside of African regions in which it is endemic to eleven including Australia, Belgium, Canada, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the US.

French authorities revealed that the first infected person there is a 29-year-old man with no recent history of travel to areas where it is traditionally associated with.

In Portugal, five monkeypox cases have been confirmed in the Lisbon area, with 15 more currently under investigation. In neighboring Spain, 23 people are being observed over fears they may have contracted the virus. Sweden and Italy have chalked up one case each as well.

Outside of Europe, Australia on Friday reported the first monkeypox case in Melbourne in a man who had recently travelled to the UK, with another suspected case being currently investigated in Sydney.

On Thursday, Canadian health authorities confirmed the country’s first two cases of the disease, while 17 more suspected infections were being investigated in Quebec province.

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) released a statement, saying that the country had never before faced this viral disease.

On Wednesday, a single case of monkeypox was confirmed in the US state of Massachusetts. The local health department said that the man had recently traveled to Canada. The authorities reassured the public that they were taking steps to trace the infected person’s contacts. According to an official statement, the said case “poses no risk to the public, and the individual is hospitalized and in good condition.”

Monkeypox is typically spread by wild animals in certain tropical areas of Africa; however, it is capable of transmitting from animals to humans as well. It is not yet known which species are monkeypox’s natural reservoir, with the WHO surmising that it could be rodents.

“Contact with live and dead animals through hunting and consumption of wild game or bush meat are known risk factors,” the WHO warned.

The incubation period can be anywhere between six and 21 days. The disease initially manifests itself in fever, headache, body aches, and exhaustion. Patients also often develop a rash, typically first appearing on the face and later spreading to other parts of the body and forming scabs.

Outbreaks have happened regularly since the 1970’s in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Nigeria, but usually remained confined to those areas.

On a more positive note, the virus is not known to spread easily among people, with the risk to the wider public believed to be fairly low.