WHO upgrades monkeypox risk level to ‘moderate’

This handout photo taken in the year 2001 and received on May 23, 2022 from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the German federal government agency and research institute responsible for disease control and prevention, shows a colored electron-microscopic capture of the monkeypox virus.
ANDREWA MAENNEL, ANDREWA
SCHNARTENDORFF / RKI ROBERT KOCH INSTITUTE / AFP)

LOS ANGELES/THE HAGUE – The surge in the monkeypos infections worldwide has prompted the World Health Organization to upgrade the threat level from the virus to "moderate".  

The WHO on Wednesday confirmed more than 550 monkeypox cases across 30 countries as the virus continues to spread across the globe.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the sudden appearance of monkeypox in multiple countries across the world indicates the virus has been spreading undetected for some time outside the West and Central African nations where it is usually found.

Two medicines with the potential to be used against monkeypox are already authorized in the European Union, said Marco Cavaleri, the EMA's head of biological health threats and vaccines strategy

On Wednesday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the country has reported 19 monkeypox cases in 10 states so far.

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The virus has been spotted in California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Utah, Virginia and Washington.

The Los Angeles county, the most populous county in the United States, confirmed the first presumptive case of monkeypox infection on Thursday.

The patient is an adult resident who recently traveled and had a known close contact to a case, according to the county Department of Public Health.

The patient is symptomatic, but not hospitalized, and is isolated from others, according to the health department.

Meanwhile, the European Medicines Agency said the current monkeypox outbreak in Europe is "not a public health emergency" presently.

The risk for the general population to contract the disease is low and no massive surge in cases is foreseen even if an increase of cases will likely occur, said Marco Cavaleri, the EMA's head of biological health threats and vaccines strategy.

Cavaleri said the monkeypox outbreak is "unusual, including the large geographical spread," but "most patients had mild symptoms and recovered without needing treatments."

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The EMA is discussing the treatments and vaccines available against monkeypox with companies, said the official, noting that two medicines with the potential to be used against monkeypox are already authorized in the European Union.

The first is Tecovirimat, an antiviral authorized to treat smallpox, monkeypox and cowpox. The other is Imvanex, a vaccine currently only authorized in the EU to protect adults against smallpox, but animal data show effectiveness in the prevention of monkeypox.