W.H.O. Says Monkeypox Poses ‘Moderate’ Risk to Public Health

The World Health Organization (W.H.O.) on Sunday issued an update on the emergence of monkeypox cases around the globe, deeming it a “moderate” health risk.

The organization said in a Sunday update that it has confirmed 257 cases worldwide as of May 26, in addition to 120 suspected cases. No fatalities have been linked to the outbreak. According to the W.H.O.’s update, “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.”

“Early epidemiology of initial cases notified to WHO by countries shows that cases have been mainly reported amongst men who have sex with men (MSM),” it added, coinciding with initial reports that the outbreak is linked to sexual activity taking place at two raves in Europe.

“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,” W.H.O. assessed, reaffirming that 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,” it added.

According to the W.H.O.’s data, the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland have reported the most cases out of all non-endemic countries  — 106. Portugal has reported 49, Canada has reported 26, Spain has reported 20, Netherlands has reported 12, and the U.S. has reported ten. Figures in other non-endemic countries are in the single-digits. 

However, despite the W.H.O.’s assessment, reports over the weekend indicated that the U.S. monkeypox toll has risen beyond ten. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) tracker, there are 14 cases across the U.S. — three in California, two in Colorado, Florida, New York, and Utah, as well as one in Massachusetts, Virginia, and Washington.