Highlights

  • World Health Organization (WHO) chief on how to stop Monkeypox outbreak
  • WHO specially cautions gay men
  • Avoid taking new partners till situation is controlled: WHO chief

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WHO chief on Monkeypox: reduce your number of sexual partners, reconsider sex with new partners

World Health Organization (WHO) chief on Monkeypox: reduce your number of sexual partners, reconsider sex with new partners

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the monkeypox outbreak “can be stopped, if countries, communities and individuals inform themselves, take the risks seriously, and take the steps needed to stop transmission and protect vulnerable groups.”

Speaking to reporters today (23 Jul) in Geneva, Ghebreyesus said “the best way to do that is to reduce the risk of exposure.”

“That means making safe choices for yourself and others. For men who have sex with men, this includes, for the moment, reducing your number of sexual partners, reconsidering sex with new partners, and exchanging contact details with any new partners to enable follow-up if needed", Ghebreyesus added. On Saturday (23 July), WHO declared a public health emergency of international concern over the global monkeypox outbreak.

More than 18 thousand cases of monkeypox have now been reported to WHO from 78 countries, with more than 70% of cases reported from the European Region, and 25% from the Region of the Americas. So far, five deaths have been reported, and about 10% of cases are admitted to hospital to manage the pain caused by the disease.

WHO recommends targeted vaccination for those exposed to someone with monkeypox, and for those at high risk of exposure, including health workers, some laboratory workers, and those with multiple sexual partners.At this time, the agency does not recommend mass vaccination against monkeypox. One smallpox vaccine, called MVA-BN, has been approved in Canada, the European Union and the U.S. for use against monkeypox.

WATCH: 21-day isolation, keeping lesions fully covered: Centre's guidelines for monkeypox patients

Two other vaccines, LC16 and ACAM2000, are also being considered for use against monkeypox.However, Ghebreyesus explained, “we still lack data on the effectiveness of vaccines for monkeypox, or how many doses might be needed.”That’s why, WHO’s chief said, the agency urges all countries that are using vaccines to collect and share critical data on their effectiveness.The Director-General also mentioned some challenges with the availability of vaccines.Currently, there are about 16 million doses of MVA-BN globally.

Most are in bulk form, meaning they will take several months to “fill and finish” into vials that are ready to use.Several countries with monkeypox cases have secured supplies of MVA-BN, and WHO is in contact with other countries to understand their supply needs. WHO urges countries with smallpox vaccines to share them with countries that don’t.“We must ensure equitable access to vaccines for all individuals and communities affected by monkeypox, in all countries, in all regions", Ghebreyesus said.

Dr Rosamund Lewis, the Head and Technical lead for monkeypox of the Health Emergencies Programme at WHO, said that “If folks are going for a vaccine where it might be available, it's important to understand that the vaccine takes several weeks to take effect and to generate an immune response, which means that someone who is being vaccinated against monkeypox also has to continue taking protective measures and making safer choices during the time after the vaccine has been administered.

"A WHO adviser in the HIV, Hepatitis and STI programmes, Andy Seale, added that “the other messages to compliment this are being very alert to symptoms, understanding what symptoms are and that people should look for if they think that they have been at risk and seeking medical advice rapidly, should they identify the fact that they may have symptoms so rapidly excluding themselves from sexual contact, close social contact, in that case.

"According to Seale, “this is sexually transmissible, but they have not yet felt able to reach a conclusion to state that this is an STI.”The adviser explained that experts are “looking at past experiences where there are multiple modes of transmission, including Zyka, for example, and they're comparing different experiences from those types of experience. Looking at lab data around presence in vaginal fluids and semen, of course, of the virus.

"So far, Seale explained, “we know that it's that close skin to skin contact that facilitates transmission a little bit like herpes.”Condoms aren't efficient in protecting herpes transmission, but for other STIs they are, the expert said. In terms of the COVID-19 pandemic, WHO’s chief informed that deaths have been increasing for the last five weeks, and several countries are reporting increasing trends in hospitalizations following waves of transmission driven by Omicron subvariants.Last week, WHO launched an update to the Global COVID-19 Vaccination Strategy, emphasizing the need to vaccinate the most at-risk groups, including 100% of health and care workers, 100% of older people and 100% of those at highest risk.

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