WHO: There is still not concern that monkey pox is developing into a pandemic

Nearly 400 suspected and confirmed cases have been reported to the health organization from about a dozen countries located far from the native areas of the disease.

WHO: There is still not concern that monkey pox is developing into a pandemic
An artist's view of the viruses that cause monkey pox. Photo: Dotted Zebra / AOP

The World Health Organization (WHO) is not yet concerned about the development of a global pandemic of monkey pox. The infectious disease has recently spread outside Africa to a number of non-native countries.

Britain confirmed its first monkey pox infection about two and a half weeks ago. Since then, nearly 400 suspected and confirmed cases have been reported to the WHO from some twenty countries far from the usual locations of the disease.

The UN Health Organization has expressed concern about the "unusual situation." However, the WHO reiterated yesterday that there is no need to panic over the virus. Monkeypox is spread through close contact and does not usually cause serious illness.

In connection with Monday's review of the disease situation, representatives of the organization were asked whether monkeypox could lead to a new pandemic. Rosamund Lewis, a WHO monkeypox expert, admitted that the organization does not know for sure. However, the WHO is not expected to do so.

"Right now, we're not worried about a global pandemic," Lewis said.

He said it was important to take immediate action to curb the spread of the virus. According to him, it is still possible to stop the recent spread before it expands to a greater extent.

Monkeypox is feared to seek to replace smallpox

Experts are working to find out why the virus has suddenly spread to countries where it has never been seen before.

According to one theory, monkeypox spreads more easily among people under the age of 45 because they have not been vaccinated against smallpox. Indeed, people who have been vaccinated against smallpox may still have some protection against the monkeypox virus. No vaccine has been given in Finland since the 1970s.

Vaccines developed against smallpox have been shown to be approximately 85% effective in preventing monkeypox. However, there are very few vaccines.

Experts have expressed concern that monkeypox could try to take advantage of gaps in global immunity to fill the vacuum left by smallpox.

- We are worried that it will replace smallpox, and we really do not want that to happen, Lewis of the WHO said.

One infection confirmed in Finland

In Finland, the Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District (Hus) reported on Friday that the country's first monkeypox infection was confirmed. Hus had reported suspicion of smallpox a couple of days earlier. A man with monkeypox was told he was already recovering on Friday.

Monkeypox is not easily transmitted from person to person, but often requires very close contact to transmit the disease. In the majority of cases, infections are suspected to be related to sex between men.

The monkeypox virus is found mainly in West and Central Africa. The most typical symptoms of this smallpox are blisters that appear on the skin, which can occur in the face, limbs, other parts of the body, and genitals, for example.

- Blisters are the same type that is caused by chickenpox. If you get blisters, especially in the genital area, you should go for testing, Hille's infection doctor Ville Holmberg told STT last week.

Other primary symptoms of monkeypox may include fever, headache, swollen lymph nodes, and muscle aches. According to THL, the incubation period of the disease is typically one to two weeks. The disease usually heals on its own in a few weeks.

The expert emphasizes: Monkeypox is not a disease of homosexuals

Experts stress that there is no evidence that monkeypox is sexually transmitted. According to them, however, there may have been a number of so-called intensifying events recently in which representatives of the LGBTQ community have come together for close contact.

Andy Seale, a spokesman for the WHO sexually transmitted diseases program, underlined on Monday that monkeypox is not a disease of homosexuals. He stressed that the virus could infect any group in close contact.

According to WHO Sylvie Briand, the disease has so far also been transmitted by inhalation. However, according to him, it is still unclear whether the spread has occurred mainly through droplets excreted from the airways or whether the disease is spread by air.