Monkeypox is starting to spread across much of the world, alarming doctors and public health authorities.
According to an update by the World Health Organization, 92 cases have now been confirmed across 12 UN member states that are not endemic for the virus.
Health experts are now racing to understand why the disease, which was first identified decades ago, is spreading now.
One clue may be the fact that the virus only seems to spread between humans via close physical contact — unlike the coronavirus, which spreads via tiny airborne particles.
That's now leading some officials to believe that the outbreak is being transmitted sexually. In fact, many of the confirmed cases were first identified at sexual health clinics, according to Reuters.
"What seems to be happening now is that it has got into the population as a sexual form, as a genital form, and is being spread as are sexually transmitted infections, which has amplified its transmission around the world," infectious disease specialist and WHO official David Heymann told Reuters.
Officials are also investigating whether the virus is being spread asymptomatically as well.
The disease can last for several weeks, with symptoms ranging from fever and muscle aches to chickenpox-like lesions on the skin. It can even be deadly, though mortality rates are low.
Fortunately, there are several reasons why the situation is not quite as serious as the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. For one, since close contact is required, out-of-control transmission is far less likely.
We also have proven ways to treat the disease.
"There are vaccines available, but the most important message is, you can protect yourself," Heymann told Reuters.
READ MORE: WHO expects more cases of monkeypox to emerge globally [Reuters]
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