The world is facing “formidable” challenges, including Covid, the war in Ukraine and monkeypox, the head of the World Health Organization has warned.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was speaking in Geneva, where the UN health agency’s experts were discussing the monkeypox outbreak in 15 nations outside Africa.
More than 80 cases have been confirmed in Europe, the US, Canada, Australia and Israel.
However, the risk to the wider public is said to be low.
Monkeypox – the virus that is most common in remote parts of Central and West Africa – does not tend to spread easily between people and the illness is usually mild.
Most people who catch the virus recover within a few weeks, according to the UK’s National Health Service.
The outbreak has taken scientists by surprise, and UK health officials have issued new advice, saying high-risk contacts of cases should self-isolate for three weeks. Belgium became the first country to announce a three-week quarantine for infected persons on Friday.
More confirmed cases are expected to be announced in the UK on Monday, the Guardian newspaper reports.
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Speaking at Sunday’s opening of his agency’s World Health Assembly, Dr Tedros said: “Of course the [Covid] pandemic is not the only crisis in our world.
“As we speak our colleagues around the world are responding to outbreaks of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo, monkeypox and hepatitis of unknown cause and complex humanitarian crises in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan, the Syrian Arab Republic, Ukraine and Yemen.
“We face a formidable convergence of disease, drought, famine and war, fuelled by climate change, inequity and geopolitical rivalry,” the WHO head added.
The WHO earlier said that a number of other suspected monkeypox cases were being investigated – without naming the countries involved – and warned that more infections were likely to be confirmed.
After the outbreak was first identified in the UK, the virus began to be detected across Europe – with public health agencies in Spain, Portugal, Germany, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Italy and Sweden all confirming cases.
Further cases were confirmed in Austria and Switzerland on Sunday.
The UK Health Security Agency has identified 20 cases so far and its chief medical adviser Dr Susan Hopkins told the BBC’s Sunday Morning programme: “We are detecting more cases on a daily basis.”
She said the virus was now spreading in the community – with cases detected which have had no contact with anyone who has visited West Africa, where the disease is endemic.
But the risk to the general population remains “extremely low”, with cases so far mostly found in some urban areas and among gay or bisexual men, Dr Hopkins said.
Although there is no specific vaccine for monkeypox, several countries have said they are stocking smallpox vaccines, which are about 85% effective in preventing infection because the two viruses are quite similar.
It is not yet clear why this unexpected outbreak is happening now.
One possibility is that the virus has changed in some way, although currently there is little evidence to suggest this is a new variant.
Another explanation is that the virus has found itself in the right place at the right time to thrive.
Monkeypox may also spread more easily than it did in the past, when the smallpox vaccine was widely used.
Pampered pooches ride Japan’s Shinkansen in style
Oh to be a pampered pooch on one of Japan’s iconic Shinkansen trains heading to a beautiful resort town.
For the first time, 21 furry friends were allowed to roam free in a special pet-friendly carriage on Saturday, as part of a trial by Japan Railways (JR).
Dogs must usually travel in a carrier when riding the high-speed trains which speed all over the country.
However pet ownership is big business in Japan, and demand for easier pet travel is increasing.
The dogs, which included Corgis, Pomeranians and Schnauzers, boarded at Tokyo’s Ueno station, and made the hour long journey to the mountainous town of Karuizawa, north west of the capital.
Their owners – sitting on plastic-covered seats – relaxed with their dogs, instead of having to worry that they were distressed or uncomfortable.
“He has to stay in a carrier all the time when travelling, so we check on him regularly,” Yoko Okubo, making the journey with her Corgi, told AFP news agency.
“Today we don’t need to do that and can see his face. We can travel more comfortably this way.”
Pets are big business in Japan.
The industry – which is dominated by dogs and cats – is forecast to reach 1.7 trillion yen ($13.2bn; £10.6bn) in 2022, according to Statistica.
Walking around Tokyo, you can lose count of the many stores dedicated to pet accessories like diamante-encrusted collars and luxury brand dog strollers. In the shop windows fluffy puppies pounce around, with the price tag often in the thousands of dollars.
So for some pet owners, keeping their beloved pooches in a small carrier – which is not allowed to weigh more than 10kg total – seems cruel.
“We travel a lot together, but in the past I’ve felt bad about keeping my dog in a cage,” Yukari Seino, travelling with her chihuahua Chobi, told AFP.
“We feel no stress today. Usually travelling on the bullet train is not so fun, and we get bored. But it’s really fun today.”
Japan Railways launched the trial after customers asked for more relaxed ways to travel with their pets, and the company said it intends to organise more pet-friendly rides in the future.
The Shinkansen bullet trains – top speed 320km/h (198 mph) – are known for their impeccable cleanliness as much as their speed and efficiency.
As well as the plastic covered seats, staff also put air purifiers in the carriage and said it would be cleaned afterwards to remove all traces of dog hair.