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London — The European drugs regulator is bolstering its response to escalating cases of monkeypox, days after the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a global health emergency.

The European Medicines Agency’s emergency task force — an advisory body tasked with handling regulatory activities during a public-health emergency — will now tackle both Covid-19 and monkeypox, the regulator said on Wednesday.

The task force will offer scientific advice, review the available scientific data, and co-ordinate independent monitoring studies on interventions, such as the Bavarian Nordic vaccine and Siga Technologies antiviral, which are being used to combat monkeypox.

Monkeypox is a virus that typically causes mild symptoms including fever, aches and pus-filled skin lesions. People tend to recover on their own within two to four weeks, according to the WHO.

First identified in monkeys, the virus is transmitted chiefly through close contact, and is typically endemic to Africa.

After initial reports of European cases in May, cases have since ballooned to more than 16,000 from more than 75 countries. Five deaths, all of which occurred in Africa, have been reported so far.

On Tuesday, British health agencies secured funding to develop a standardised approach to test the performance of vaccines being used or in development against monkeypox.

It is difficult to predict how the outbreak will unfold, said Carlos Maluquer de Motes, who runs a research group studying poxvirus biology at the University of Surrey.

“There has been no decline in the number of confirmed monkeypox cases since the beginning of the outbreak. This indicates that the public health measures deployed so far have had minimal impact and that the outbreak is unlikely to die off by natural causes.”



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