The World Health Organization (W.H.O.) has called for an end to the persecution of monkeys in the wake of the global monkeypox outbreak.
The calls come amid reports that monkeys are being poisoned and killed in Brazil by people targeting them due to the presumed contagion source.
According to Brazilian news website G1, ten monkeys had been poisoned in less than a week in the city of Sao Jose do Rio Preto, in Sao Paulo state.
More similar incidents were reported in other cities, A.P. reports.
W.H.O. spokesperson Dr. Margaret Harris said at a press briefing Tuesday:
“What people need to know is that the transmission we are seeing is happening between humans.”
More than 1,700 cases of Monkeypox have been reported in Brazil, according to the W.H.O.’s figures.
The country’s health ministry confirmed one death related to the disease last month.
According to the A.P. report, the victim was a man who had low immunity and comorbidities.
Contagion can occur from animals to humans, but the recent outbreak is related to only human contact, according to Harris, who expressed sorrow for the creatures.
“People certainly should not attack the animals,” she said.
Brazil has also had an extended register of attacks on monkeys during yellow fever outbreaks.
Nearly 90 countries have reported more than 29,000 cases of Monkeypox since May.
The outbreak of the disease was classed as an international emergency in July by the W.H.O.
N.B.C. News notes that monkeys do not primarily transmit Monkeypox; rather, until the current outbreak, the virus was most commonly found in and spread by rodents.
Harris explained Monkeypox got its name due to the virus first being identified in a group of monkeys in a lab in Denmark in 1958.
“That’s the only reason it has had that name,” she said.
Harris said concern should be about where the virus is circulating in populations.
The best way to tackle the virus, Harris said, is for “people [to] recognize they have symptoms and go get help and medical care and take precautions to prevent it being transmitted.”
Raising awareness among at-risk groups is key to this, she said.
The virus spreads through close contact, and most – but not all – cases have been registered among men who have sex with men.
The W.H.O. has urged people not to stigmatize any infected people.