The World Health Organization on Saturday said that 92 confirmed cases of monkeypox have been reported across 12 countries, while 28 suspected cases are under investigation.
The cases have been reported in Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
The global health body said it expects more cases of monkeypox to be reported as it expands surveillance in countries where the disease is not typically found.
Monkeypox is a rare infection that is mainly spread by wild animals like rodents and primates in parts of west or central Africa, according to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service.
The disease usually causes a mild illness and can result in symptoms such as high temperature, headache, backache and a chickenpox-like rash.
The National Health Service says that it is uncommon for the infection to spread through human contact but can happen if a person touches monkeypox skin blisters or uses clothing, bedsheets or towels of those suffering from the disease.
On Saturday, the World Health Organization said that based on available information, the cases of monkeypox have been mainly, but not exclusively, identified amongst men who have had sex with men and sought care in sexual health clinics.
“What seems to be happening now is that it has got into the population as a sexual form, as a genital form and is being spread as are sexually transmitted infections, which has amplified its transmission around the world,” WHO official David Heymann told Reuters.
Heymann added that close contact was the key transmission route for the spread of monkeypox, as lesions typical of the disease are very infectious.
On Friday, it emerged that Britain has started offering the smallpox vaccines to some healthcare workers and those who may have been exposed to the infection. Smallpox is a related but more severe virus that has been eradicated.
According to the World Health Organization, “vaccination against smallpox was demonstrated through several observational studies to be about 85% effective in preventing monkeypox”. The shot may also help to reduce the severity of illness.