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The world is facing serious challenges, including covid, the war in Ukraine and monkeypox, the head of the World Health Organization has warned.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus spoke in Geneva, where World Health Organization experts discussed the outbreak of monkeypox in 15 countries outside of Africa.
However, the risk to the general public is considered low.
“Of course, the covid pandemic is not the only crisis in our world … We are facing a formidable combination of disease, drought, famine and war fueled by climate change, injustice and geopolitical rivalry,” the WHO chief said, speaking on Sunday at the opening of the World Assembly healthcare.
The WHO has previously said a number of other cases of suspected monkeypox are being investigated, without naming the countries involved, and warned that more infections are likely to be confirmed.
In Israel and Switzerland, the first people to become infected were people who had recently arrived from abroad. Israel is investigating several cases of infection.
Initial symptoms include fever, headaches, swelling, back pain, and muscle pain.
Once the fever has passed, a rash may appear, often first on the face, then spreading to other parts of the body, most commonly the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.
The rash, which can be very itchy or painful, changes and goes through different stages before finally forming a scab that later falls off. Lesions can cause scarring.
The infection usually clears up on its own and lasts 14 to 21 days.
Monkeypox is most common in Central and West Africa. Outside this region, its pathogen is most often carried by people and animals who have been there.
Outbreaks of the disease on their territory this week were confirmed by the authorities of the United States, Canada, Spain, Portugal, Great Britain, France, Italy, Sweden and Australia.
Around 80 confirmed cases of infection have been reported worldwide, but the World Health Organization (WHO) is talking about another 50 patients with suspected monkeypox, without naming the countries where they were detected.
The organization warns that the number of cases will rise.
Scientists didn’t expect these outbreaks, but monkeypox doesn’t spread very easily from person to person. The illness is usually mild, with most people recovering within a few weeks, according to the British Health Service.
However, British authorities recommend that people who have been in contact with the sick people self-isolate for 21 days.
“We are finding new cases every day,” Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser to the British government, told the BBC on Sunday.
While there is no vaccine specifically for monkeypox, she said, several countries are stocking up on smallpox vaccine, which is about 85% effective at preventing infection because the two viruses are similar.
WHO on Friday called the latest outbreaks of the disease unusual because they are recorded in countries for which the disease is not typical. It is not yet clear why this unexpected outbreak is happening now.
There is a version that the virus somehow mutated, although so far there is little evidence that this is a new variant. Another version is that the virus somehow ended up in favorable conditions for spreading.
Perhaps monkeypox is spreading faster than in the past because smallpox vaccines are not widely used now.
According to WHO Regional Director for Europe Hans Kluge, during the summer months, the transmission of the virus could accelerate because people will gather together more often. He drew attention to the fact that the virus had already spread outside of Europe – Australia confirmed that one person who visited Britain became infected with it.
In the US state of Massachusetts, authorities said one person who recently visited Canada tested positive for the virus. In Canada itself, two cases were recorded in the province of Quebec.
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