The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday said the monkeypox outbreak is still “containable” in non-endemic countries, or those without significant spread of the zoonotic virus.
The organization’s director for global infectious hazard preparedness, Sylvie Briand, said at a WHO assembly the monkeypox virus could be controlled by pragmatic measures like raising awareness, detecting cases early and isolating contacts to halt the chain of transmission.
“It’s also very important for this, again, limited outbreak to have excellent global coordination and collaboration,” Briand said. “We need to share information, share diagnostic resources [and] share data.”
Briand said she has been monitoring the monkeypox virus for the past few years without a viral spread, so the recent spike in reported cases is alarming. The WHO does not yet know if the monkeypox virus is spreading more rapidly now because of a change in the virus or in human behavior.
David Heymann, a longtime WHO infectious disease expert, said on Monday the monkeypox outbreak is tied to sexual transmission of the virus at two raves in Spain and Belgium.
Monkeypox is from the same family as the now-eradicated smallpox virus and is endemic to nine African countries. The zoonotic virus primarily spreads through close contact with bodily fluids and usually requires prolonged contact to spread.
The infected usually develop symptoms within three days, which begin with a fever and body aches and can end with a body rash.
As of Tuesday, the WHO has identified 131 confirmed cases across the globe and 106 suspected cases. The bulk of the cases were reported in Spain, Portugal and the United Kingdom.
The WHO has confirmed two cases in the U.S., including a man in Massachusetts, as well as seven possible cases.
Nations already have tools to fight monkeypox with existing vaccines for smallpox. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced on Monday the release of more than a thousand doses of the Jynneos smallpox vaccine available in the U.S.