Monkeypox can be contained if we act now: WHO

STORY: The spread of monkeypox can likely be contained if countries act quickly.

So said the World Health Organization's director for Global Infectious Hazard Preparedness, Sylvie Briand, on Friday (May 27).

She told the U.N. agency's annual assembly that it wasn't a disease the general public should be worried about.

"We are afraid that there will be a spread in community but currently it’s very hard to assess this risk. We think that if we put in place the right measures now, we probably can contain this easily, so that’s why we are making this briefing today and we are trying to raise awareness, because we are at the very, very beginning and we have a good window of opportunity to stop the transmission now.”

Monkeypox is a usually mild viral infection that is endemic in parts of west and central Africa.

It spreads chiefly through close contact, and until the recent outbreak, was rarely seen in other parts of the world.

That's why the emergence of cases in Europe, the United States and other areas has raised alarms.

So far, there are about 300 confirmed or suspected cases in around 20 countries where the virus was not previously circulating.

"It’s not like COVID or other diseases that spread fast, so all those recommendations are not to create anxiety in the general public but it’s more to raise the alert and make sure that we all know what is the risk we have in front of us and we can take the adequate measures in a timely manner.”

Measures needed to prevent the spread include the early detection and isolation of cases, and contact tracing.

Briand called on WHO member states to share information about first generation stockpiles of smallpox vaccines which can also be effective against monkeypox.

However, her colleague Rosamund Lewis, the WHO head of the smallpox secretariat stressed that there is not a recommendation to use smallpox vaccines for monkeypox.

“What we have been advised so far is that there is no need for mass vaccination, there is no need for large immunization campaigns..."

... instead suggesting targeted shots where available for close contacts of those infected.