A few days ago, the WHO rejected the declaration of an international health emergency. Now, however, the experts are worried about the spread of monkeypox in children, pregnant women and the immunocompromised. The virus may have already established itself, warns WHO chief Ghebreyesus.
The World Health Organization (WHO) warns that if monkeypox continues to be transmitted worldwide, the virus will spread to high-risk groups such as pregnant women, immunocompromised people and children. WHO is currently following up reports of infected children, including two cases in the UK, as well as reported cases in Spain and France, the agency said. None of the cases in children was serious.
Monkeypox has now been detected in more than 50 new countries outside of Africa where the virus is endemic. Cases are also increasing in these countries, according to the WHO, which called for testing to be stepped up. "I'm concerned about the ongoing transmission because it would indicate that the virus is establishing itself and could move into high-risk groups such as children, immunocompromised people and pregnant women," said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
There have been more than 3,400 cases of monkeypox and one death since the outbreak began in May. According to the WHO, these were mainly reported in Europe among men who have sex with men. There have also been more than 1,500 cases and 66 deaths in countries where the disease commonly spreads this year.
Just last week, the WHO decided that the outbreak was not yet a health emergency – the authority's highest alert level. The emergency committee is seriously concerned about the extent and speed of the outbreak, but advises against declaring an international health emergency "for the moment". A less dangerous cousin of smallpox, which was eradicated about 40 years ago, monkeypox is commonly found in West and Central Africa.