According to the WHO, monkeypox is at risk of spreading to non-endemic countries, with more than a thousand confirmed cases in such nations.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of WHO, says the UN health agency is not recommending mass vaccination against the virus, and says no deaths have been reported so far from the outbreaks.
Tedros told a press conference that monkeypox is in danger of spreading to countries that are not endemic to it.
The zoonotic disease is endemic in nine African countries, but outbreaks have been reported in several other states, mainly in Europe, including Great Britain, Spain and Portugal.
“More than 1,000 confirmed cases of monkeypox have been reported to WHO from 29 non-endemic countries,” Tedros said.
“So far, no deaths have been reported in these countries. Cases have been reported mostly, but not exclusively, among men who have had sex with men.
“Some countries are now reporting cases of apparent community transmission, including cases among women.”
The Greek government confirmed its first case of the disease on Wednesday, with health authorities there saying the patient had recently traveled to Portugal and was in a stable condition.
The first signs of monkeypox are a high fever, swollen lymph nodes, and a blistery rash similar to chickenpox.
Tedros said he was concerned about the virus’ effect on vulnerable groups, such as pregnant women and children.
In his view, the sudden and unexpected appearance of monkeypox outside endemic countries suggests that there might have been undetected transmission for some time, but for how long is unknown.
In a country where monkeypox is not endemic, one case is considered an outbreak.
Tedros said that, while this was “clearly concerning,” the virus has been circulating and killing in Africa for decades, with more than 1,400 suspected cases and 66 deaths so far in 2017.
“Communities who live with this threat every day deserve the same care, the same attention, and the same tools for protection,” he said.
Vaccines are being used to protect exposed individuals, including healthcare workers, in the few places where vaccines are available.
For higher-risk close contacts, such as intimate partners or household members, post-exposure vaccination, ideally within four days, could be considered.
Tedros said the WHO will issue guidance soon on clinical care, infection prevention and control, vaccination, and community protection.
According to him, people experiencing symptoms should isolate themselves at home and seek health care, while those in the same household should avoid close contact.
There have been few hospitalizations, aside from isolated patients, the WHO reported at the weekend.
The WHO’s epidemic and pandemic preparedness and prevention director, Sylvie Briand, said the smallpox vaccine can also be used against monkeypox, a related orthopoxvirus.
The WHO is trying to determine how many doses are currently available and to find out from manufacturers what their production and distribution capacities are.