WHO issues warning on human-to-dog transmission of monkeypox

·2 min read
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The World Health Organization has called on people infected with monkeypox to avoid exposing animals to the virus following a first reported case of human-to-dog transmission.

A first case of human-to-dog transmission of monkeypox – between two men and their Italian greyhound living together in Paris – was reported last week in the medical journal The Lancet.

Rosamund Lewis, the WHO's technical lead for monkeypox said Wednesday: "This is the first case reported of human-to-animal transmission ... and we believe it is the first instance of a canine being infected."

Experts had been aware of the theoretical risk that such a jump could happen, she said, adding that public health agencies had already been advising those suffering from the disease to "isolate from their pets".

She also said "waste management is critical" to lowering the risk of contaminating rodents and other animals outside the household.

Jumping the species barrier

When viruses jump the species barrier it often sparks concern that they could mutate dangerously.

Lewis stressed that so far there were no reports that was happening with monkeypox.

But she acknowledged that "as soon as the virus moves into a different setting in a different population, there is obviously a possibility that it will develop differently and mutate differently".

The main concern revolves around animals outside of the household.

According to WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan: "The more dangerous situation... is where a virus can move into a small mammal population with high density of animals.

"It is through the process of one animal infecting the next and the next and the next that you see rapid evolution of the virus."

He however stressed that there was little cause for concern around household pets.

Surge in new strain

The surge in monkeypox infections has been reported since early May outside of endemic African countries.

On 23 June, the WHO declared the situation an international public health emergency.

More than 35,000 cases have been identified in 92 countries, resulting in 12 deaths confirmed deaths.

All new cases have reported from Europe and the Americas.

Renaming monkeypox could take months

Meanwhile the WHO said its drive to rename monkeypox could take "a number of months".

The organisation has for weeks voiced concern about the name, with experts concerned that it is misleading.

Monkeypox received its name because the virus was originally identified in monkeys kept for research in Denmark in 1958.

However, the disease is found most frequently in rodents, and the current outbreak is being spread through human-to-human close contact.

The WHO has called for help from the public in coming up with a new name, with a dedicated website where anyone can make suggestions.

"We will update the public by the end of the year," the WHO said.