World Health Organization Tells People Not To Attack Monkeys Amid Monkeypox Spread
A mother Hooded Capuchin Monkey carries her baby on her back along the banks of the Rio Formoso, in Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil.
Credit Julian Gunther via Getty Images.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has told people not to attack monkeys as monkeypox spreads around the world. 

WHO’s statement comes after reports from Brazil revealed that seven monkeys had been killed there in recent days, possibly linked to reactions to the spread of monkeypox, according to NBC News. A Brazilian outlet reported that 10 monkeys appeared to be poisoned or otherwise harmed. 

“What people need to know is that the transmission we are seeing is happening between humans,” said WHO spokeswoman Dr. Margaret Harris. 

Dener Giovanini, the coordinator of a group that combats the trafficking of animals, said the name for the disease had led some in Brazil to believe that monkeys were causing the outbreak. 

“The name chosen for this new disease is very unfortunate. Many people in Brazil believe that monkeys carry the disease and are persecuting these animals,” he said. “We are very concerned because this represents a huge threat to wild animals in Brazil, which are already very endangered.”

Brazil’s Environmental Military Police also suspect that the killings were motivated by the fear that monkeys spread the disease. 

While monkeypox is not spread exclusively through sex, studies have shown that the disease has primarily been transmitted by men who have sex with men. Some health experts believe the first outbreaks were among gay and bisexual men who attended raves in Europe. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), monkeypox can spread through skin-to-skin contact that often happens through hugging, kissing, extended face-to-face contact, and sexual intercourse.

The WHO said people should not be concerned about monkeys spreading the disease but instead look to crack down on the spread among humans. 

“The concern should be about where it’s transmitting in the human population and what humans can do to protect themselves from getting it and transmitting it,” Harris said. “They should certainly not be attacking any animals.”

Last month, WHO leader Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus directed the organization to declare monkeypox a “public health emergency of international concern,” despite a lack of consensus from the body on the declaration. 

The disease joined COVID and polio as the other diseases designated as international emergencies by the global health organization. 

“We have an outbreak that has spread around the world rapidly through new modes of transmission, about which we understand too little, and which meets the criteria,” Tedros told the press at the time.

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