The World Health Organization on Friday warned that monkeypox cases across the world are likely to increase.
“We know that we will have more cases in the coming days,” Sylvie Briand, WHO director for global infectious hazard preparedness, said during a briefing. She added that “we are still at the very, very beginning of this event.”
As of Friday, WHO reports nearly 200 monkeypox cases across more than 20 countries that don’t typically have the disease. The virus is endemic in several African countries.
“Currently we don’t know if we are just seeing the peak of the iceberg and there are many more cases that are still undetected in the community,” Briand said.
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She said that more cases will be reported as countries increase surveillance to find the disease, but that means that WHO does not yet know its full extent.
Briand said that a good window of opportunity remains to stop the spread of the disease, but she notes that community spread has become a concern.
“We are afraid that there will be spread in the community, but currently it’s very hard to assess this risk,” she said.
Monkeypox, which is a rare viral disease, is “transmitted from one person to another by close contact with lesions, body fluids, respiratory droplets and contaminated materials such as bedding,” according to WHO. Symptoms include rash, headache, fever, muscle and body aches, swollen lymph nodes and back pain.
The general public does not need to be alarmed over monkeypox, Briand said, given that it does not spread quickly like COVID-19 does.
“I think this is not a disease the general public should be worried of,” she said. “It’s not like a COVID or others that spread fast.”
In the U.S., eight states report a total of 10 cases of monkeypox, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Not every case has a history of travel, meaning that some of the infections are likely caused by community spread.
CDC officials on Monday warned that anyone can get monkeypox but added that a “notable fraction of cases” are occuring among gay and bisexual men.