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Monkeypox has “a variety of mechanisms of spread,” Dr. Anne Rimoin, a professor of epidemiology at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, noted Sunday.
Rimoin, who said he has studied the virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for two decades, explained how it can spread a day after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the international epidemic of monkeypox virus is now a public problem. Health emergency of international concern (USPPI).
Speaking on “Fox News Live”, Rimoin noted that “we know a lot about monkeypox in the context of low-resource settings, places like the DRC, but we really have to be humble about what we know about the how this virus is going to spread with potential for global spread in a resource-rich environment.”
“What we are seeing now is that this virus is spreading rapidly with very close person-to-person contact,” she continued, noting that the virus “can spread in different ways.”
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The monkeypox expert noted that the virus can also be spread through so-called fomites, which are materials, including sheets, clothing and towels, that can carry infection.
She also pointed to “very close personal contact” as another cause of rapid spread.
Rimoin noted that in Africa the virus is often spread from animal exposure.
“And then a lot of times we can see this person-to-person contact, which then continues and which can come from someone who is sick, the lesions are in contact with sheets, clothes, these things, and then someone anyone else who’s in touch with it can have it,” she explained.
While the United Nations (UN) health agency had previously debated the issue, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus explained in a press briefing on Saturday that the Emergency Regulations Committee Sanitaire Internationale (RSI) had generally agreed that the transmission of the virus at the time “does not represent a [PHEIC].”
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Since then, he noted, the monkeypox epidemic has grown steadily, with more than 16,000 cases reported in 75 countries and territories. On Saturday, there were five confirmed deaths.
Tedros said there was a clear risk of further international spread, while noting that the risk of interference with international traffic remains low. The current WHO assessment is that the risk of monkeypox is moderate worldwide and in all regions except Europe, where the risk is considered high.
Although the monkeypox virus has been established in West and Central Africa for decades, it was not known to trigger large epidemics beyond the continent or to spread widely among people until last May. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported 2,891 confirmed cases of monkeypox and orthopoxvirus – the majority of which are in New York, where vaccination efforts have encountered technical problems.
Rimoin stressed that “viruses never stay in one community”.
“We all live together, there’s a lot of travel, there’s a lot of commerce, there’s a lot of mobility so that’s probably what we’ll see,” she continued.
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Monkeypox, which is related to smallpox, has milder symptoms and these symptoms include fever, chills, rash and pain, before the lesions develop.
Julia Musto of FOX News and The Associated Press contributed to this report.