Health · June 30, 2022

WHO warns of ‘persistent transmission’ of monkeypox putting vulnerable groups at risk

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The World Health Organization says that “sustained transmission” of monkeypox worldwide could lead to the virus spreading to high-risk groups such as pregnant women, immunocompromised people and children.

The WHO said on Wednesday it was investigating reports of infected children, including two cases in Britain, and was following up reports in Spain and France. None of the cases in children were serious.

The virus has now been identified in more than 50 new countries outside of the African countries where it is endemic. Cases are also increasing in these countries, the WHO said, calling for testing to be stepped up.

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“I am concerned about continued transmission because it would indicate that the virus is establishing itself and may be entering high-risk groups such as children, immunocompromised and pregnant women,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in an online briefing from Geneva on Wednesday.

A logo is pictured at the World Health Organization building in Geneva, Switzerland, February 2, 2020.

A logo is pictured at the World Health Organization building in Geneva, Switzerland, February 2, 2020.
(Reuters/Denis Balibouse)

According to a WHO count, there have been more than 3,400 cases of monkeypox and one death since the outbreak began in May, mostly in Europe among men who have sex with men. That year also saw more than 1,500 cases and 66 deaths in countries where it’s spreading more frequently.

Last week, the WHO ruled that the outbreak is not yet a public health emergency, the highest alert level. However, Tedros said WHO is closely following the outbreak and will reconvene the committee “as soon as possible” to assess whether this is still the case. [L1N2YE0YM]

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The UN agency said it was also working on a mechanism to distribute vaccines more equitably, after countries including Britain and the United States indicated they were willing to share their stockpiled smallpox vaccines, which also protect against monkeypox.