Monkeypox outbreak questions intensify as cases soar

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The monkeypox virus, shown here in a colored electron micrograph, typically spreads by skin-to-skin contact or respiratory droplets.


(Jon Cohen/ Science) — The sudden appearance of monkeypox in 13 countries on four continents has jolted the public health community into action. A much milder cousin of smallpox that sporadically causes small outbreaks in Africa, monkeypox is thought to spread slowly and is unlikely to be a pandemic in the making.

But scientists worry about the spread among men who have sex with men (MSM), who make up a disproportionate number of the cases so far. The outbreak is a strange and unsettling return to the spotlight for poxviruses, a largely forgotten threat since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared smallpox eradicated in 1980.

The current outbreak surfaced on 7 May in the United Kingdom, which so far has confirmed 20 cases. In the past 3 days, more than 100 suspected cases were reported in Spain, Portugal, the United States, Canada, Sweden, Italy, Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Australia, and Israel. (…)

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