GENEVA (AFP) – The World Health Organization (WHO) called for 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 – was reported in the medical journal The Lancet.
“This is the first case reported of human-to-animal transmission… and we believe it is the first instance of a canine being infected,” WHO’s technical lead for monkeypox Rosamund Lewis told reporters.
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.
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.
“The more dangerous situation… is where a virus can move into a small mammal population with high density of animals,” WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan told reporters.
“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 stressed though that there was little cause for concern around household pets.
“I don’t expect the virus to evolve any more quickly in one single dog than in one single human,” he said, adding that while “we need to remain vigilant… pets are not a risk.”
Monkeypox was originally identified in monkeys kept for research in Denmark in 1958, though it is found most frequently in rodents.
The disease was first discovered in humans in 1970, with the spread since then mainly limited to certain West and Central African countries.
But in May, cases of the disease, which causes fever, muscular aches and large boil-like skin lesions, began spreading rapidly around the world.
Worldwide, more than 35,000 cases have been confirmed since the start of the year in 92 countries, and 12 people have died, according to the WHO, which has designated the outbreak a global health emergency.
With global case numbers jumping by 20 per cent in the past week alone, the United Nations (UN) health agency is urging all countries to do more to rein in the spread, including ensuring at-risk populations have access to services and information about the dangers and how to protect themselves.