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WHO worried as Monkeypox spreads to 12 countries

More than 80 cases of monkeypox have been confirmed in at least 12 countries.

More than 80 cases of monkeypox have been confirmed in at least 12 countries. 

The World Health Organization has said another 50 suspected cases are being investigated and warned that more cases are likely to be reported.

Infections have been confirmed in nine European countries, as well as the US, Canada and Australia. So far, public health agencies in Europe have confirmed cases in the UK, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Italy and Sweden.

Monkeypox is most common in remote tropical forest areas of Central and West Africa.

The WHO said in a statement on Friday that the recent outbreaks of monkeypox "are atypical, as they are occurring in non-endemic countries".

The UN health agency said it was "working with the affected countries and others to expand disease surveillance to find and support people who may be affected".

The WHO also warned against stigmatising groups because of the disease.

"It can be a barrier to ending an outbreak as it may prevent people from seeking care, and lead to undetected spread," it added.

WHO's Europe regional director Hans Kluge warned that "as we enter the summer season… with mass gatherings, festivals and parties, I am concerned that transmission could accelerate".

All but one of the recent cases had no relevant travel history to areas where monkeypox was endemic, he explained.

The first case of the disease in the UK was reported on 7 May. The patient had recently travelled to Nigeria, where they are believed to have caught the virus before travelling to England, the UK Health Security Agency said.

There are now 20 confirmed cases in the UK, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said on Friday.

Australia's first case was detected in a man who fell ill after travelling to the UK, the Victorian Department of Health said.

In North America, health authorities in the US state of Massachusetts confirmed that a man has been infected after recently travelling to Canada. He was in "good condition" and "poses no risk to the public", officials said.

Meanwhile, in India, the Health Ministry has issued an alert to the National Centre for Disease Control and Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to keep a close watch on the monkeypox situation in the wake of a rapid spurt of cases abroad.

They have been asked to immediately send samples of suspected cases if any to the National Institute of Virology in Pune.