UPDATED: Unlikely monkeypox outbreak will lead to pandemic, says WHO

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LONDON, May 30 (Reuters) – The World Health Organization does not believe the monkeypox outbreak outside of Africa will lead to a pandemic, an official said on Monday, adding that it remains unclear whether infected people who are not displaying symptoms can transmit the disease.

More than 300 suspected and confirmed cases of monkeypox, a usually mild illness that spreads through close contact, causing flu-like symptoms and a distinctive rash, have been reported in May.

Most cases have been in Europe rather than in the Central and West African countries where the virus is endemic. No deaths have been reported so far.

 The World Health Organization earlier said that the sudden appearance of monkeypox at once in several countries where the disease is not typically found suggests undetected transmission for some time and recent amplifying events.

As of May 26, a total of 257 confirmed cases and 120 suspected cases have been reported from 23 member states that are not endemic for the virus, WHO said in a statement.

The agency added that it expects more cases to be reported as surveillance in endemic and non-endemic countries expands.

Monkeypox is an infectious disease that is usually mild, and is endemic in parts of west and central Africa. It is spread by close contact, so it can be relatively easily contained through measures such as self-isolation and hygiene.

Most of the cases reported so far have been detected in the UK, Spain and Portugal.

“The vast majority of reported cases so far have no established travel links to an endemic area and have presented through primary care or sexual health services,” the U.N. agency said.

The World Health Organization said on Sunday that monkey pox constitutes a “moderate risk” to overall public health at global level after cases were reported in countries where the disease is not typically found.

“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,” WHO said.

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