Monkeypox cases being found in countries with no direct travel links to “an endemic area is atypical”, the World Health Organization said on Sunday.

“The sudden appearance of monkeypox simultaneously in several non-endemic countries suggests that there may have been undetected transmission for some time as well as recent amplifying events,” the global health body said.

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 United Kingdom’s 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, bed sheets or towels of those suffering from the disease.

“Epidemiological investigations are ongoing,” the World Health Organization said on Sunday. “The vast majority of reported cases so far have no established travel links to an endemic area and have presented through primary care or sexual health services.”

The statement came after 257 confirmed cases and 120 suspected infections of monekypox have been reported to the World Health Organization from 23 non-endemic member states as of May 26. There have been no reported deaths.

On Sunday, the global health body recommended that frontline health workers and vulnerable groups are protected from monkeypox and that accurate information is provided to those most at risk of contracting the virus.

In non-endemic countries, the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland have the most number of confirmed cases at 106, followed by Portugal at 49 and Canada at 26 between May 13 and May 26, the global health body said.

List of confirmed and suspected monkeypox cases in non-endemic countries till May 26.
Picture credit: World Health Organisation

The earlier cases of monkeypox have been mainly, but not exclusively, identified amongst men who have had sex with other men and sought care in sexual health clinics, according to the World Health Organization.

The global health body had said it expects more cases of monkeypox to be reported as it expands surveillance in countries where the disease is not typically found.

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Monkeypox: How does it spread, what are the risks, and how is it treated?