The World Health Organization (WHO) said it hopes to identify more cases of monkeypox as it expands surveillance in countries where the disease is not normally found. While Belgium became the first country to introduce a mandatory 21-day quarantine for patients with the disease.
As of Saturday, 94 confirmed cases and 28 suspected smallpox cases have been reported in 15 countries that are not endemic for the virus., said the UN agency. The organization adds that it will provide more guidance and recommendations in the coming days on how to slow the spread of the disease and has yet to comment on the application of quarantines.
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Belgian health authorities reportedly made the decision as early as Friday, when the country registered its second confirmed case of the disease, according to local press reports. Those who have had contact with infected people do not need to self-isolate, but they should remain vigilant, especially if they are in contact with vulnerable people.
Monkeypox causes painful itching, which causes lesions, but the tendency is for the condition to be mild and disappear in a few weeks — Photo: CDC/Associated Press
“Available information suggests that human-to-human transmission is occurring between people in close physical contact with symptomatic cases,” the agency added.
Monkeypox is an infectious disease that is usually mild and endemic in parts of West and Central Africa. It is spread by close contact, and can be contained relatively easily through measures such as isolation and hygiene.
“What appears to be happening now is that it has entered the population as a sexual form, as a genital form, and it is spreading just like sexually transmitted infections, which has amplified its transmission around the world,” said David Heymann, an official. from the WHO and an infectious disease expert told Reuters.
Heymann said an international committee of experts met via videoconference to review what needed to be studied about the outbreak and communicated to the public, including whether there is asymptomatic spread, who is most at risk and what the routes of transmission are.
The committee, however, is not the group that suggests declaring a public health emergency of international concern, the WHO’s highest form of warning – and which has been applied to the Covid-19 pandemic.