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Monkeypox-The window to contain the spread is shrinking – World Today

par Jennifer Rigby

LONDON (Reuters) – Researchers advising the World Health Organization (WHO) on the management of the outbreak of monkeypox cases say the window of opportunity to slow its progression is closing, which raises fears that the epidemic peak will not be reached for several months.

Currently, the cumulative number of recorded cases is doubling globally every two weeks and, according to WHO data, more than 18,000 cases of contamination by the virus responsible for this disease have been recorded since the beginning of the year in more than 75 countries.

Five deaths have also been recorded in Africa, where the disease is endemic.

According to a projection by the WHO’s regional office for Europe, the cumulative number of infections could exceed 27,000 on August 2, spread across 88 countries.

Beyond this date, the models are complex but specialists expect to see the spread continue for several months, or even longer.

“We have to try to get ahead of that,” explains Anne Rimoin, professor of epidemiology at the University of California at Los Angeles.

“It is obvious that the window of opportunity (to achieve this) is closing”, adds this specialist, member of the committee of experts consulted by the WHO before this epidemic outbreak was declared “emergency of public health of international concern” last week.

This characterization requires rapid action to try to slow the spread of the disease, by increasing vaccination, testing, isolation of infected people and the search for contact cases.

ALARM SIGNAL

“The transmission is clearly not under control”, underlines Antoine Flahault, director of the Institute of global health of the University of Geneva, also member of the committee of experts advising the WHO.

For Jimmy Whitworth, professor of public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the spread of the epidemic is not expected to stabilize in the next four to six months, or not until those most likely to be contaminated have been either vaccinated or infected.

Monkey pox has been endemic for decades in central and western Africa, but an unusual increase in cases has been seen since May in Europe and North America. , notably.

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Usually transmitted to humans through contact with wild animals, the virus responsible for this zoonosis can also be transmitted through direct contact with skin lesions or mucous membranes of a sick person, especially during sexual intercourse, but also through contact with the patient’s environment (bedding, clothes, dishes, bath linen, etc.).

The incubation period ranges from five to 21 days, the febrile phase lasts between one and three days and the disease usually heals spontaneously, after two to three weeks.

According to the researchers, the vast majority of cases recorded during this outbreak outside the African continent have occurred in men who have sex with men, particularly those who have had multiple partners.

In France, a preventive vaccination campaign has been launched and more than a hundred vaccination centers have been opened.

“We are one of the very first countries in the world to have offered preventive vaccination that is fully covered,” said Agnès Firmin Le Bodo, Minister Delegate to the Minister of Health, on Tuesday during the session of questions to the government in The national assembly.

According to the minister, a total of 1,749 cases had been identified as of July 25, almost half of them in Ile-de-France.

If this disease is rarely fatal, this epidemic outbreak should not be neglected, judge the specialists, who evoke the risk of constitution of an animal reservoir of the virus in new countries, as is already the case in certain regions. of Africa, or even the risk of the appearance of mutations favoring human-to-human transmission.

“The alarm had gone off (in Africa) but we continued to ignore it. Now it’s time to wake up and do something,” warns Anne Rimoin. “An infectious disease somewhere is potentially an infectious disease everywhere. »

(Report Jennifer Rigby and Natalie Grover, with contributions from Natalie Thomas in London and Sophie Louet in Paris; French version Myriam Rivet, edited by Bertrand Boucey)

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