Avian Flu Diary: WHO Updated Risk Assessment On Monkeypox – May 29th

Currently, the overall public health risk at global level is assessed as moderate considering this is the first time that monkeypox cases and clusters are reported concurrently in widely disparate WHO geographical areas, and without known epidemiological links to non-endemic countries in West or Central Africa. Cases have been mainly reported amongst MSM. Additionally, the sudden appearance and wide geographic scope of many sporadic cases indicates that widespread human-to-human transmission is already underway, and the virus may have been circulating unrecognized for several weeks or longer.

The public health risk could become high if this virus exploits the opportunity to establish itself as a human pathogen and spreads to groups at higher risk of severe disease such as young children and immunosuppressed persons; a large part of the population is vulnerable to monkeypox virus, as smallpox vaccination, which confers some cross-protection, has been discontinued since 1980 or earlier in some countries.

There is currently limited epidemiological and laboratory information, and the number of cases currently being reported is likely to be an underestimate, in part due the following:

  • the relatively mild symptoms in many cases with localized rash and lymphadenopathy, such that many persons may not present to health care services
  • lack of early clinical recognition by health workers of an infection previously known in only a few countries;
  • the time required by Member States to establish and scale up new surveillance mechanisms.
  • and a lack of widely available diagnostic tests, reagents and other supplies.

There is a potential risk to health workers if they are not wearing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) to prevent transmission. Though not reported in the current outbreak, the risk of health care associated monkeypox infections has been documented in the past.

There is the potential for greater health impact with wider spread to vulnerable population groups, as deaths among cases in previous outbreaks have been reported to occur more often among children, and immunocompromised individuals, including persons with poorly controlled HIV infection, who may be especially at risk of more severe disease.

Source: Avian Flu Diary: WHO Updated Risk Assessment On Monkeypox – May 29th