WHO warns of more outbreaks from endemic diseases

STORY: Outbreaks of endemic diseases like monkeypox are becoming more frequent, the World Health Organization’s Emergencies Director Mike Ryan warned on Wednesday (June 1).

As climate change contributes to rapidly changing weather conditions like drought, animals and humans are changing their behaviour.

The result, Ryan said, is diseases that typically circulate in animals are increasingly jumping into humans.

“There’s a lot of ecologic fragility, we’re dealing with the animal-human interface being quite unstable and the number of times that these diseases cross into humans increasing and then our ability, unfortunately, that ability to amplify that disease and moving on within our communities increasing.”

Ryan also pointed to an upward trend in cases of Lassa fever, an acute viral illness spread by rodents endemic to Africa.

And Ebola outbreaks, Ryan said, used to be years apart.

Now it’s months.

“So, I think this is a lesson, these diseases will continue to emerge, they will continue to pressure, they will continue to cross the species barrier. The question is: are we in a position to collectively respond?”

Ryan’s comments come amid rising cases of monkeypox.

The illness spreads through close contact causing flu-like symptoms and a distinctive rash.

On Wednesday the UK's Health Security Agency said an outbreak of the viral disease in England appears to be spreading from person to person - and without links to travel.

WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said there have been 550 confirmed cases of the viral disease in 30 countries outside of Africa, where the pathogen is endemic.

“Investigations are ongoing, but the sudden appearance of monkeypox in many countries at the same time suggests there may have been undetected transmission for some time."

Still, on Monday the WHO said it does not believe the outbreaks outside of Africa will lead to a pandemic.

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