WHO sees no need to cancel mass events amid Monkey pox spread

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The World Health Organisation (WHO) says it sees no need to cancel or postpone mass events this summer due to the unusually high number of monkey pox cases.

“We have learnt that mass gatherings do not amplify transmission by themselves, it is the behavior during events that matters,’’ WHO experts said on Friday.

However, organisers of some 800 major festivals in Europe should provide information over the risks of infection. “We need to raise awarness,’’ WHO’s Meg Doherty said.

The disease is spread through close physical contact.

Medical officials say the outbreak seems to be concentrated among men who have had sexual contact with multiple other men.

Although the disease can be deadly, it is treatable but comes with a phase of bothersome skin rashes.

Worldwide, almost 5,000 Monkey pox infections have been reported this year, of these, 3,308 cases were registered in 40 countries outside Africa as of Wednesday, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

On Thursday, WHO convened a meeting of experts to assess whether the spread of monkey pox should be considered a global public health emergency and plans to announce the results of these deliberations later on Friday or on Saturday.

According to a study, the pathogen causing the current outbreak of monkey pox has mutated surprisingly strongly.

Compared to related viruses in 2018 and 2019, there are around 50 differences in the genotype, a team from Portugal wrote in the Nature Medicine journal, based primarily on analyses of Portuguese cases.

This is roughly six to 12 times more than would have been expected for this type of pathogen on the basis of earlier estimates.

The divergent branch could be a sign of accelerated evolution.

“Our data reveals additional clues of ongoing viral evolution and potential human adaptation,’’ said the study led by João Paulo Gomes of the National Institute of Health Dr Ricardo Jorge (INSA) in Lisbon.

Experts had so far spoken of a fundamentally rather slow development with regard to this type of virus, especially compared to the very numerous mutations of the COVID-19 virus.

The authors of the study suspect one or more introductions from a country where the virus is persistent to be behind the current outbreak.

Super spreader events and international travel then appeared to have promoted further escalation.

Experts also suspect that enzymes of the human immune system were responsible for these changes in the genome.

They added that there were no indications whether the mutations favoured the current spread, but that could not be ruled out. (dpa/NAN)