Europe ‘epicenter’ of monkeypox outbreak

Europe is at the center of the spread of monkeypox, the European office of the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday, concerned about the risk of spreading the disease.

“Europe remains the epicenter of this growing wave, with 25 countries reporting more than 1,500 cases, or 85 percent of the world total,” WHO Director Hans Kluge said at a news conference in Europe, which brings together 53 countries, including some from Central Asia.

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For the UN body, the priority is to contain the transmission.

“The scale of this epidemic poses a real risk: the longer the virus circulates, the more it will spread and the more the disease will gain a foothold in non-endemic countries,” Mr. Kluge warned.

The virus, which normally circulates in central and west Africa, is now present outside of Europe in Australia, the Middle East, North America and South America with more than 1,600 cases in total.

Known in humans since 1970, monkeypox or simian orthopoxvirosis is a disease considered rare and caused by a virus transmitted to humans from infected animals.

It initially causes a high fever and quickly develops into a rash with scabs. Mostly benign, it usually heals spontaneously after two to three weeks.

The spread of the virus, which is transmitted in particular through prolonged contact, should not lead to the cancellation of the public reception events planned for this summer.

“These events are great opportunities to reach young, sexually active and highly mobile people,” said Kluge, noting that they were “an opportunity to (…) increase our commitment.”

Noting that the majority of cases reported so far involve men who have sex with men, he cautioned against stigma, stressing that “the monkeypox virus per se is not tied to any particular group.”

Currently, the WHO does not recommend mass vaccination. European health authorities on Tuesday ordered more than 100,000 doses of a smallpox vaccine approved in the United States against monkeypox and believed to be effective against the virus.

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