Explainer: How worried should we be about monkeypox?

NEW YORK: Global health officials have sounded the alarm over rising cases in Europe and elsewhere of monkeypox, a type of viral infection most common in West and Central Africa.

As of Saturday (May 21), 92 confirmed cases and 28 suspected cases of monkeypox have been reported in 12 member states that are not endemic for the virus, the UN agency said.

The following is what is known about the current outbreak and the relative risk of monkeypox:

HOW DANGEROUS IS IT?

The risk to the general public is low at this time, a US public health official told reporters at a briefing on Friday.

Monkeypox is a virus that can cause symptoms including fever, aches and pains and presents with a distinctive bumpy rash.

It is related to smallpox but is often milder, particularly the West African strain of the virus that was identified in a US case, which has a fatality rate of about 1 percent. Most people make a full recovery in two to four weeks, the official said.

The virus is not as easily transmitted as the SARS-CoV-2 virus that caused the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Experts believe that the current outbreak of monkeypox is spreading through close, intimate skin-to-skin contact with someone who has an active rash. That should make its spread easier to contain once infections are identified, experts said.

“COVID-19 is transmitted through the respiratory route and is highly infectious. This does not appear to be the case with monkeypox,” said Dr. Martin Hirsch of Massachusetts General Hospital.

Many, but not all, of the people who have been diagnosed in the current monkeypox outbreak are men who have sex with men, including cases in Spain linked to a sauna in the Madrid region.

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