Over 35,000 monkeypox cases globally, ‘almost’ all infections among men: WHO

New Delhi: The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Wednesday (August 17, 2022) said that more than 35,000 cases of monkeypox have now been reported from 92 countries and territories, with 12 deaths. At a media briefing, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that almost 7,500 monkeypox infections were reported last week, a “20% increase” over the previous week. He stated that “almost all cases” are being reported from Europe and the Americas, and almost all cases continue to be reported among men who have sex with men.

“The primary focus for all countries must be to ensure they are ready for monkeypox, and to stop transmission using effective public health tools, including enhanced disease surveillance, careful contact tracing, tailored risk communication and community engagement, and risk reduction measures,” Tedros said.

The chief of the global health body said that monkeypox vaccines may also play an important part in controlling the outbreak, and in many countries there is high demand for vaccines from the affected communities.

“However, for the moment, supplies of vaccines, and data about their effectiveness, are limited, although we are starting to receive data from some countries,” he said.

Tedros also said that WHO “remains concerned” that the inequitable access to vaccines we saw during the COVID-19 pandemic will be repeated, and that the poorest will continue to be left behind.

WHO renames two known clades of monkeypox virus

A meeting of experts convened by WHO has agreed to rename the two known clades of monkeypox virus using Roman numerals, Tedros informed.

While the clade formerly known as the Congo Basin or Central African clade will now be referred to as clade I, while the West African clade will be called clade II.

“Work on renaming the disease and the virus is ongoing,” Tedros said.

What is monkeypox virus?

It is an illness caused by the monkeypox virus. Monkeypox is a viral zoonotic infection that can spread from animals to humans. It can also spread from person to person. The disease is called monkeypox because it was first identified in colonies of monkeys kept for research in 1958. It was later detected in humans in 1970.

What are symptoms of monkeypox disease?

The monkeypox disease can cause a range of signs and symptoms. While some people have mild symptoms, others may develop more serious symptoms and need care in a health facility. The most common symptoms of monkeypox include fever, headache, muscle aches, back pain, low energy, and swollen lymph nodes. This is followed or accompanied by the development of a rash which can last for two to three weeks.

The rash can be found on the face, palms of the hands, soles of the feet, eyes, mouth, throat, groin, and genital and/or anal regions of the body. The number of lesions can range from one to several thousand. Lesions begin flat, then fill with liquid before they crust over, dry up and fall off, with a fresh layer of skin forming underneath.

Symptoms typically last two to three weeks and usually go away on their own or with supportive care, such as medication for pain or fever. People remain infectious until all of the lesions have crusted over, the scabs fallen off and a new layer of skin has formed underneath.

Those at higher risk for severe disease or complications include people who are pregnant, children and persons that are immunocompromised.

How does monkeypox spread?

The monkeypox spreads from person to person through close contact with someone who has a monkeypox rash, including through face-to-face, skin-to-skin, mouth-to-mouth or mouth-to-skin contact, including sexual contact. When an infectious person touches clothing, bedding, towels, objects, electronics and surfaces, someone else who touches these items can then become infected. It is also possible to become infected from breathing in skin flakes or virus from clothing, bedding or towels.

The virus can also spread through direct contact with the mouth, respiratory droplets and possibly through short-range aerosols.

Monkeypox can also spread from someone who is pregnant to the fetus, after birth through skin-to-skin contact, or from a parent with monkeypox to an infant or child during close contact.

How to protect yourself against monkeypox?

Reduce your risk of catching monkeypox by limiting close contact with people who have suspected or confirmed monkeypox, or with animals who could be infected.

Clean and disinfect environments that could have been contaminated with the monkeypox virus from someone who is infected regularly.

Is there a treatment for monkeypox virus?

People with the monkeypox virus should follow the advice of their health care provider. Symptoms normally resolve on their own without the need for treatment, but if needed, medication for pain (analgesics) and fever (antipyretics) can be used to relieve some symptoms, according to WHO.

It is important for anyone with monkeypox to stay hydrated, eat well, and get enough sleep.

People infected with monkeypox should also avoid scratching their skin and take care of their rash by cleaning their hands before and after touching lesions and keeping skin dry and uncovered (unless they are unavoidably in a room with someone else, in which case they should cover it with clothing or a bandage until they are able to isolate again).

The rash can be kept clean with sterilised water or antiseptic. Saltwater rinses can be used for lesions in the mouth, and warm baths with baking soda and Epsom salts can help with lesions on the body. Lidocaine can be applied to oral and perianal lesions to relieve pain.

An antiviral that was developed to treat smallpox (tecovirimat) was approved in January 2022 by the European Medicines Agency for the treatment of monkeypox.

Can kids catch monkeypox virus?

Children can also get monkeypox if they have close contact with someone who has symptoms. There, however, have been a small number of kids with monkeypox in the current outbreak.

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