WHO warns monkeypox could become 'established' outside Africa: 5 details

Global health officials are warning of the potential for monkeypox to become endemic outside of Africa if the current outbreak isn't contained, NBC News reported June 8. 

"The risk of monkeypox becoming established in non-endemic countries is real," Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, the World Health Organization's director-general, said during a June 8 press briefing. 

Five details:

1. As of June 8, 1,200 monkeypox cases had been reported across 29 countries, CDC data shows. In the U.S., 40 cases have been reported in 14 states and the District of Columbia. 

2. In 2003, there were 47 monkeypox cases in the U.S. — the largest outbreak in the Western Hemisphere before the current one, NBC reported. Everyone infected in the prior outbreak had been in contact with sick prairie dogs. Experts are more concerned about the current outbreak's endemic potential due to human-to-human transmission. 

"Right now we're more at risk for the virus maybe becoming endemic due to ongoing human-to-human transmission and our inability to stop the transmission cycle," Amira Albert Roess, PhD, a professor of global health and epidemiology at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., told NBC

3. Health experts have also expressed concern over the U.S.' monkeypox testing ability.

"There's so little testing, especially in the U.S., which hasn't deployed a test and requires samples be sent to CDC (like outset of COVID), that we should assume [a] large underestimate of cases; this has been circulating for while, and only became apparent when super spread events occurred," Scott Gottlieb, MD, former FDA commissioner, tweeted June 5.

4. The U.S. has more than 36,000 doses of the Jynneos monkeypox vaccine immediately available in the national stockpile. Bavarian Nordic, which manufactures the shot, has said it can fill 16.4 million more doses upon request. The nation also has more than 100 million doses of an older generation smallpox vaccine, but the former is preferred. 

"This is one of the rare diseases in which you can vaccinate somebody after they've been infected, before they have symptoms, and block the disease," Eric Toner, MD, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore told NBC. "We would have to really screw things up not to be able to contain this."

5. The virus can be transmitted — at least to some extent — through aerosols, though most transmission in the current outbreak is thought to be associated with skin-to-skin and other forms of close contact. "Men who have sex with men make up a high number of cases," the CDC's monkeypox overiew page says. "However, anyone who has been in close contact with someone who has monkeypox is at risk." To learn more about how the virus is spread, click here.

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