The World Health Organization (WHO) says that smallpox can be spread primarily through sexual contact.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said Monday that the outbreak of the smallpox virus in North America and Europe, primarily through male sexual intercourse, has been confirmed by at least 200 suspected cases in at least a dozen countries.

The epidemic has spread rapidly in Europe and North America in recent weeks and is expected to spread much more as more doctors look for signs and symptoms. According to the organization, two confirmed and one suspected cases of monkey smallpox in the UK were reported to the WTO 10 days ago, and this year the virus has spread at a low level in non-African countries over the past 40 years, the organization said.

“In the last five years, we have seen several cases in Europe just for travelers, but for the first time in many countries at the same time for people who do not visit endemic areas of Africa. , ”Dr. Rosamund Lewis, who conducted the WHO study on smallpox, said in a live question and answer session on the organization’s social media channels.

According to the German military, European countries have confirmed dozens of cases of the largest ape epidemic on the continent. The United States has confirmed at least two cases, and Canada has so far confirmed at least five. Belgium has just introduced a 21-day mandatory quarantine for monkeys.

The World Health Organization (WHO) held an emergency meeting this weekend to look at the virus via video conference to identify those most at risk and study its transmission. The organization will hold a second global conference on smallpox next week to further explore the risks and treatment options available to combat the virus.

Although the virus itself is not a sexually transmitted infection, the most recent increase in sperm and vaginal discharge seems to have been reported among men who have sex with other men, WHO said, anyone can be infected. monkey smallpox.

“Many diseases can be transmitted sexually. You can get a cough or a cold, but that doesn’t mean it’s a sexually transmitted disease,” said Andy Seale, who advised the WHO on HIV, hepatitis and other sexually transmitted diseases. infectious infections.

The virus is transmitted through close contact with humans, animals or infected material. It enters the body through broken skin, respiratory tract, eyes, nose and mouth. According to the CDC, it is believed that human-to-human transmission can also be transmitted through respiratory droplets, but this method requires prolonged face-to-face contact because the droplets cannot travel more than a few feet.

“It’s a very persistent virus outside of its owner, so it can live in things like blankets and things like that,” the doctor said. Scott Gottlieb told CNBC in a separate interview on Monday. “So you can see situations where people don’t want to wear clothes, things like that, which can be disrupted in spreading areas like New York.”

He said more cases are expected in the United States in the coming weeks, as doctors and public health officials review patients with symptoms and the spread of the virus continues.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smallpox is a disease caused by a virus in the same family as smallpox, but it is less severe. However, according to the CDC, according to observations in Africa, smallpox can kill 1 in 10 people infected with the disease.

According to the World Health Organization, the smallpox vaccine appears to be 85% effective against monkey disease in African surveillance. However, vaccines are not widely available, so it is important to preserve them for endangered populations, said Maria Van Kerhove, a leading WHO epidemiologist for zoonotic diseases. According to him, the WTO knows whether they can increase production in cooperation with vaccine manufacturers.

Early signs of smallpox in monkeys include fever, headache, back pain, muscle aches and lack of energy, according to WHO. The rash then develops on the face, arms, legs, eyes, mouth, or genitals, turning into larger blisters or papules, often similar to chickenpox. They then fill with a white liquid and turn into a pustule, which breaks down and turns into scab.

Gottlieb described it as a debilitating disease that lasted two to four months and had an incubation period of 21 days.

“I don’t think it will spread uncontrollably as we endure the Covid-19 epidemic,” Gottlieb said. “But now it’s going to get into the community, and if it’s actually more widespread than what we’re measuring now, it’s going to be hard to turn it off.”

– CNBC Spencer Kimball and the Karen Gilhrist contributed to this article.

Disclosure: Dr. Scott Gottlieb is a contributor to CNBC and a board member of Pfizer, a genetic testing company, Tepus, a health technology company, Aetion, and a biotechnology company. to light. He also serves as co-chair Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings‘ and the Royal Caribbean“Healthy sail panels.”

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