Monkeypox outbreak ‘is containable’ says World Health Organization

The stages of monkeypox

The emerging monkeypox outbreak is a “containable situation” in “non-endemic countries”, according to experts at the World Health Organization (WHO).

The virus, which has seen more than 100 cases in Europe, the Americas, and Australia, is expected to spread further, but the overall risk to the wider population is low, WHO experts said on Monday. (23 May).

The virus is most common in remote parts of Central and West Africa and hasn’t seen an outbreak this significant outside the region in 50 years.

However, WHO’s emerging diseases lead Maria Van Kerkhove stressed that “this is a containable situation”.

“We want to stop human-to-human transmission,” Kerkhove said. “We can do this in the non-endemic countries.”

A big reason monkeypox is containable is its low transmissibility, as Kerkhove explained: “Transmission is really happening from skin-to-skin contact, most of the people who have been identified have had more of a mild disease.”

It also “tends not to mutate and [tends] to be fairly stable,” noted WHO’s smallpox secretariat lead Rosamund Lewis. There’s no current supporting evidence to suggest the spreading virus is a mutation.

According to the BBC, Andrea Ammon of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control noted the “likelihood of spread is very low”, but is higher through close contact during sex.

“The likelihood of further spread of the virus through close contact, for example during sexual activities amongst persons with multiple sexual partners, is considered to be high,” Ammon said.

UK officials have confirmed that cases in the country have predominantly been found among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men, though a sexual health expert told PinkNews that it’s unclear whether this is because of queer men attending more regular sexual health screenings.

Symptoms of monkeypox include fever, headaches, swellings, aching muscles, and exhaustion. Rashes and lesions may start to appear on the face, hands, and feet.

Monkeypox is not currently considered a sexually transmitted infection, but can still be transmitted through sex. Residents in the UK who have come into contact with a confirmed case are now being asked to isolate themselves for 21 days.

The UN has previously condemned reporting on the virus as “racist and homophobic,” with UNAIDs deputy executive director Matthew Kavanagh telling The Guardian: “Stigma and blame undermine trust and capacity to respond effectively during outbreaks like this one.”