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World Health Organization confirms 80 cases of monkeypox with outbreaks in 11 countries

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This 2003 electron microscope image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows mature, oval-shaped monkeypox virions, left, and spherical immature virions, right, obtained from a sample of human skin associated with the 2003 prairie dog outbreak.
Cynthia S. Goldsmith, Russell Regner | CDC via AP

The World Health Organization has confirmed about 80 cases of monkeypox with recent outbreaks reported in 11 countries, according to a statement Friday from the global health agency.

The outbreaks are unusual because they are occurring in countries where the virus is not endemic, according to the WHO. More cases will likely be reported in the coming days as surveillance expands, the global health agency said.

“WHO is working with the affected countries and others to expand disease surveillance to find and support people who may be affected, and to provide guidance on how to manage the disease,” the WHO said.

Monkeypox is a disease caused by a virus in the same family as smallpox but is not as severe, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, monkeypox can result in death for 1 in 10 people who contract the disease based on observations in Africa, according to the CDC.

The smallpox vaccine is 85% effective at preventing monkeypox based on observational studies in Africa, according to the WHO and CDC.

Monkeypox is spread through close contact with people, animals or material infected with with the virus. It enters the body through broken skin, the respiratory tract, the eyes, nose and mouth. Though human-to-human transmission is believed to occur through respiratory droplets as well, this requires prolonged face-to-face contact because the droplets cannot travel more than a few feet, according to the CDC.

“As monkeypox spreads through close contact, the response should focus on the people affected and their close contacts,” the WHO said. Health-care workers, household members and sexual partners of people who have the virus are at greater risk of disease, according to the WHO.

The U.S. CDC confirmed a monkeypox case in Massachusetts on Wednesday. The person had recently traveled to Canada using private transportation. New York City is investigating a possible monkeypox case, according to a health department statement Thursday.

Monkeypox usually begins with symptoms similar to the flu including fever, headache, muscle aches, chills, exhaustion and swollen lymph nodes, according to the CDC. Within 1 to 3 days of fever onset, patients develop a rash that begins on the face and spreads to other body parts. The illness usually lasts for about 2 to 4 weeks.

Monkeypox is usually found in Central and West African nations with rainforests where animals that carry the virus live, according to the WHO. However, outbreaks have previously occurred outside Africa. In 2003, the U.S. had the first monkeypox outbreak outside Africa, caused by human contact with infected prairie dogs kept as pets. The 2003 U.S. outbreak resulted in more than 70 cases.

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

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