WHO Officials 'Not Concerned' Monkeypox Outbreak Will Lead to Global Pandemic: 'Not COVID-19'

Monkeypox causes body rashes and can spread through respiratory droplets, and the World Health Organization assures this rare virus is not similar to COVID-19

Monkeypox. Photo: Getty

The World Health Organization says experts are "not concerned" that the recent rise of monkeypox cases will result in another global pandemic.

During a briefing on Monday, Dr. Rosamund Lewis, WHO's technical lead for monkeypox, was asked if the current outbreak of the rare virus could escalate to a pandemic. She responded, "The answer is we don't know, but we don't think so."

"At the moment, we are not concerned about a global pandemic," Lewis said, per the Associated Press. "We are concerned that individuals may acquire this infection through high-risk exposure if they don't have the information they need to protect themselves."

"We don't want people to panic or be afraid and think that it's like COVID or maybe worse," added Sylvie Briand, WHO's director of epidemic and pandemic preparedness and prevention, CNBC reports. "This monkeypox disease is not COVID-19, it is a different virus."

Lewis urged health professionals nationwide to be vigilant in spotting symptoms and explaining the risks, adding, "Collectively, the world has an opportunity to stop this outbreak. There is a window."

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monkey pox
Monkeypox lesions. Courtesy of CDC/Getty Images

Monkeypox — named because it was originally found in colonies of monkeys used for research — first causes fever, headache, muscle aches, chills and swollen lymph nodes, and after one to three days patients develop a rash that spreads over the body and turns into fluid-filled lesions.

The rare virus can spread through respiratory droplets, but is most likely to transmit from touching body fluids or the rashes.

Last week, President Joe Biden also said that the virus does not rise to the same "level" of concern as COVID-19.

Speaking in Tokyo after a meeting with Japan's Prime Minister Kishida Fumio, Biden said that he doesn't believe the U.S. will need to quarantine for monkeypox, and the nation has a supply of vaccines to fight the virus, the Washington Post reported.

"I just don't think it rises to the level of the kind of concern that existed with COVID-19, and the smallpox vaccine works for it," Biden said, when asked if the U.S. would quarantine like Belgium, which has required anyone infected to isolate for 21 days after they confirmed three cases of monkeypox in the country.

Biden said that the U.S.'s supply of the smallpox vaccine — which is effective against monkeypox, even when given after a person contracts the virus — is enough to "deal with the likelihood of the problem."

Dr. Raj Panjabi, who is leading the White House's monkeypox response, later announced that health care workers who have treated individuals infected with monkeypox will also be able to get vaccinated.

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