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BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Commission urged the 27 EU members on Wednesday to take a more forceful and coordinated approach towards monkeypox now that the World Health Organization has declared it a global health emergency.

In a letter to national health ministers, seen by Reuters, European Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides noted that the European Union was the epicentre of detected cases and that the bloc needed to work together to control the outbreak.

Kyriakides urged the ministers to increase surveillance and reporting of cases, contact tracing and isolation, vaccinations and clear communication on the risks.

Monkeypox is a virus than typically causes mild symptomsincluding fever, aches and pus-filled skin lesions, with recovery after two to four weeks.

First identified in monkeys, it is transmittedchiefly through close contact, and is typically endemic toAfrica. After initial reports of European cases in May, cases havesince ballooned to more than 16,000 in 75 countries. Five deaths, all in Africa, have been reported so far.

Kyriakides stressed that EU members should report national case data to the European Surveillance System, updating information as more complete data becomes available.

Countries should also set up clear guidelines on contact tracing and isolation in line with recommendations from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

The EU has acquired 160,000 doses of vaccines from Danish biotech company Bavarian Nordic. Kyriakides urged EU countries that have not signed the relevant contract to do so as soon as possible to ensure deliveries.

Finally, EU members should intensify communication efforts, raising awareness without causing panic. She added that current cases were concentrated among gay men and that they should not be “targeted, victimised or marginalised because of the outbreak”.

Kyriakides concluded by saying she was confident that the EU had the tools in place to tackle the monkeypox threat.

(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

Copyright 2022 Thomson Reuters.

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