More than 18,000 cases of monkeypox have been reported across 78 countries, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Wednesday.
He released the information during opening remarks at his regular COVID-19 update, saying there have been five monkeypox deaths while 10% of cases are admitted to the hospital.
Tedros said the outbreak can be contained as long as countries, communities and individuals take the risks of the virus seriously.
Currently, 98% of cases are among men who have sex with other men. The director-general recommends they reduce the number of sexual partners. He also stressed the importance of not discriminating against a population, because any form of stigma or hate “can be as dangerous as any virus and can fuel the outbreak.”
Monkeypox, which WHO declared a global emergency last week, can be spread from person to person through sexual contact, kissing, hugging and through contaminated clothing, towels and bed sheets.
WHO recommends targeted vaccinations for those who have been exposed and for those with a high risk of exposure, such as health care workers, laboratory workers, and those with multiple sexual partners. WHO is against a mass vaccination plan at this time.
A smallpox vaccine, known as MVA-BN, has been approved for use against monkeypox in Canada, the European Union and the United States. Despite that, WHO still lacks data on the effectiveness of vaccines and therefore urges all countries that are using vaccines to share their data.
The monkeypox vaccine can take up to several weeks before protection takes effect, and WHO advises taking continued precautions to avoid exposure.
WHO wants countries that have access to the smallpox vaccine to share it with those that do not. Tedros said that while vaccines will be an important tool, surveillance, diagnosis and risk reduction remain key factors in preventing further spread.