WHO to rename Monkeypox when studying possible sexual transmission

LONDON — The World Health Organization has scheduled an emergency meeting for next week at the varicella outbreak to determine whether the virus should be classified as an international health threat. The agency is also investigating exactly how the disease is spreading.

Tina Kraus of CBS News reports that the United Nations health agency is now exploring the possibility that monkeypox could be sexually transmitted, after the virus was found in the bodily fluids of patients in Italy and Germany. Catherine Smallwood, WHO’s incident manager for smallpox in Europe, said that among the cases identified on the continent, some “examined semen to detect [the] virus and tested positive, so it’s something we’re looking into.” The agency has already said the disease – which has infected more than 1,600 people in 35 countries, including the US — is transmitted by close physical contact.

In the UK, a survey of 152 monkeypox patients found that 99% identified as men who have sex with men, according to Britain’s Health Safety Agency.

Across Europe, most infections have been among gay and bisexual men, but James McFadzean, who has contracted smallpox, said it’s important not to stigmatize certain communities. “I think we need to be careful how we label it. It’s not, you know, a ‘gay disease,'” he said. “It’s a strange, tropical disease.”

The WHO is already working with experts to come up with a new name for the virus and the disease it causes, after more than 30 international scientists complained that its current moniker is discriminatory.

“In the context of the current global outbreak, the continued reference and naming of this virus as African is not only inaccurate, but also discriminatory and stigmatizing,” they wrote.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the agency “will make announcements on the new names as soon as possible”.

He added that the current “global outbreak of monkeypox is clearly unusual and concerning.”

The worldwide outbreak of #monkeypox is clearly unusual and worrying. I have decided to convene the Emergency Committee under the International Health Regulations on Thursday of next week to assess whether this outbreak represents a public health emergency of international concern.

— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) June 14, 2022

Europe remains the epicenter of the current outbreak, with around 85% of infections worldwide.

The disease, which was first discovered in African monkeys, causes a rash that can look like chickenpox. The virus originates in wild animals such as rodents, but occasionally jumps into human populations.

Most people recover from the virus within weeks, but in rare cases the disease can be deadly.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that travelers protect themselves from smallpox by wearing masks, and the WHO has urged people who contract the virus to use condoms during sex for 12 weeks as a precaution after recovery.

US officials said the country has many effective vaccines and treatments to respond to any further spread of the virus.

WHO studying monkeypox transmission

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