The attacks led the World Health Organization – which declared monkeypox a global health emergency last month – to remind that, despite the virus’ name, monkeys should not be blamed for transmitting it.
“What people need to know very clearly is the transmission that we are seeing is happening from person to person,” WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris told reporters on Tuesday. “They certainly shouldn’t attack any animals.”
“It’s a close contact show. So the concern should be about where it’s being transmitted in the human population and what people can do to protect themselves from getting it and passing it on,” Harris said, adding that the virus is seen “much more frequently in different rodents.” , than in monkeys, and that work was continuing to consider whether to rename the virus.
Brazilian officials believe it is possible that the recent outbreak of the virus is fueling anti-monkey sentiment and behavior, although they also noted that “deliberate” attacks could also be linked to animal trafficking.
Since the attacks, Environmental Military Police officers have been patrolling the Rio Preto forest to prevent attacks on the animals, local media reported, as the National Wildlife Trafficking Network blamed the “persecution” of monkeys and the attacks on a “lack of information” in Brazilian society.
Worldwide, there are almost 32,000 confirmed cases of monkeypox, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cases have been reported in 89 countries, with the outbreak prominent in Europe, where most of the infections were recorded following an outbreak that began in the spring.
Countries that don’t normally report monkeypox have documented a surge in cases, including the United States and Britain, prompting health officials to implement plans to combat the spread of the infection.
Brazil, which similarly did not report monkeypox before this outbreak, has recorded more than 2,131 cases of infection.
Mauricio Lacerda, a virologist at the Faculty of Medicine of Rio Preto, told local media that as far as the virus is concerned, monkeys in Brazil do not pose a threat to local residents.
“What we’re seeing in Brazil, Europe and the United States is … people who are sick and are being transmitted through close contact with other people. There is no evidence that monkeypox virus is circulating among monkeys in Brazil,” he said. “There is no room for panic.”
The name “monkeypox” came about after researchers in Denmark used primates to identify the virus – which is transmitted by a range of animals, not just non-human primates – including rats, dormice and squirrels.
Since the outbreak began in May, most cases of monkeypox have been documented among men who are gay, bisexual, or have sex with men.
Monkeypox is spread through close contact – including respiratory droplets, body fluids and contaminated objects such as bedding or clothing.
The virus was declared a “public health emergency” in the United States last month as health officials scrambled to secure better access to treatment, funding and vaccines amid rising cases. Cases of the infection have also been confirmed among children in the United States.
The limited supply of monkeypox vaccine will be stretched under the FDA’s plan
“We urge every American to take monkeypox seriously and take responsibility to help us deal with this virus,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said on August 4.