WHO announces unified response to monkeypox

Monkeypox was first discovered in 1958, when two outbreaks of a smallpox-like disease occurred in research colonies of monkeys. The first human case of this variant was recorded in 1970 in Congo. It was subsequently reported in humans in other central and western African countries.

“Monkey pox re-emerged in Nigeria in 2017, after more than 40 years without a reported case. Since then, more than 450 cases have been reported in the African country and at least eight cases have been exported internationally.

According to the institute, this type of smallpox is caused by a virus which infects monkeys, but which incidentally can contaminate humans. “There are two types of monkeypox virus: those from West Africa and those from the Congo Basin (Central Africa). Although infection with the monkeypox virus in West Africa sometimes results in severe disease in some people, the disease is usually self-limited (which does not require treatment),” explains the institute.

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced this Saturday (18) that it would remove from its statistics the distinction between endemic and non-endemic countries regarding the monkeypox virus, known as monkeypox. According to the organization, the measure aims to facilitate a unified response to the virus.

For now, the WHO assesses the disease as a moderate risk, because it is the first time that outbreaks of contagion have occurred in non-endemic countries. | Reuters

“We are removing the distinction between endemic and non-endemic countries, reporting on countries together whenever possible, to reflect the unified response needed,” read the statement posted on the WHO website on Saturday.

Before the disease spread to multiple countries, monkeypox was considered endemic (circulating year-round in a country, with an expected volume of cases and deaths) in Central and West African countries. But in recent months, the disease has been reported in several other non-endemic countries, including Europe, which already accounts for 84% of reported cases, according to the WHO.

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This year alone, between January 1 and June 15, according to the agency, 2,103 confirmed cases of monkeypox were reported in 42 countries, along with one probable case and one death. The WHO, however, considers the number of cases to be even higher. “It is likely that the true number of cases remains underestimated. This may be partly due to a lack of early clinical recognition of an infectious disease thought to occur mainly in West and Central Africa, a non-severe clinical presentation for most cases, surveillance limited and to a lack of widely available diagnostics,” the statement said organization.

Smallpox caused by the hMPXV (Human Monkeypox Virus) virus causes a milder disease than smallpox, which was eradicated in the 1980s. Two endemic strains of monkeypox are circulating on the planet today. The strain endemic to West Africa, which has a case fatality rate of 1% to 3%, is the one that has been responsible for the current outbreak in other countries. The other strain of monkeypox also endemic in some African countries, originating from Congo, is considered more dangerous with a case fatality rate of up to 10%, according to the WHO.

Monkeypox is a rare viral disease transmitted by close contact with an infected person with skin lesions.
Monkeypox is a rare viral disease transmitted by close contact with an infected person with skin lesions. | Brazil

For now, the WHO assesses the disease as a moderate risk, because it is the first time that foci of contagion have occurred in non-endemic countries, very far from each other. On June 23, the organization is due to meet to assess whether the current outbreak represents a “public health emergency of international importance,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus wrote on his social media. The novel coronavirus pandemic, for example, was declared a public health emergency of international concern by the WHO in January 2020.


Monkeypox is a rare viral disease transmitted by close contact with an infected person with skin lesions. Contact can be through hugs, kisses, massages or sexual intercourse. The disease is also transmitted by respiratory secretions and by contact with objects, fabrics (clothing, bedding or towels) and surfaces used by the patient.

There is no specific treatment, but the clinical pictures are most often benign, requiring management and observation of the lesions. The greatest risk of aggravation concerns, in general, immunocompromised people with HIV/AIDS, leukemia, lymphoma, metastases, transplant recipients, people with autoimmune diseases, pregnant women, breastfeeding women and children under 8 years old.

The first symptoms may be fever, headache, muscle and back pain, swollen lymph nodes, chills or fatigue. One to three days after symptoms appear, people develop skin lesions, usually on the mouth, feet, chest, face, and/or genitals.

For prevention, close contact with the sick person should be avoided until all wounds have healed, as well as any equipment that has been used by infected people. It is also important to wash your hands, by washing them with soap and water or by using hydroalcoholic gel.

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