London: On Friday the World Health Organization held an emergency meeting to investigate the recent epidemic of monkeypox, a viral virus more frequent in West and Central Africa, after over 100 cases were confirmed or suspected in Europe.
Cases have been documented in at least nine countries, including Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, as well as the United States, Canada, and Australia, in what Germany termed as Europe’s greatest outbreak ever.
On Friday, Spain reported 24 new cases, primarily in the Madrid region, where the regional government closed a sauna associated with the bulk of infections.
A hospital in Israel was treating a man in his 30s who had recently arrived from Western Europe and was exhibiting symptoms compatible with the condition.
The disease, which was first detected in monkeys, normally spreads through intimate contact and has seldom travelled outside of Africa, so this sequence of instances has sparked concern.
Scientists do not expect the outbreak to turn into a pandemic, as the virus does not spread as quickly as SARS-COV-2.
Monkeypox is often a minor viral infection characterised by fever and an unique bumpy rash.
“This is the greatest and most extensive outbreak of monkeypox ever seen in Europe,” said the medical department of Germany’s armed forces, which discovered the first case in the country on Friday.
The Strategic and Technical Advisory Group on Infectious Hazards with Pandemic and Epidemic Potential (STAG-IH) of the World Health Organization (WHO) is meeting to discuss the issue. STAG-IH advises on infection risks that could pose a global health threat.
It would not be in charge of deciding whether the epidemic should be labelled a public health emergency of international concern, the highest level of alert now used to describe the COVID-19 pandemic.
“At this point, there appears to be a low risk to the general public,” a senior US government official said.
The outbreak was described as an epidemic by Fabian Leendertz of the Robert Koch Institute.
“This outbreak, however, is not expected to endure long. “The cases can be well isolated by contact tracing, and there are medications and effective vaccines that can be utilised if necessary,” he explained.
Nonetheless, the WHO’s European director-general expressed fear that diseases could spread faster in the region when people assemble for summer celebrations and festivals.
There is no specific vaccine for monkeypox, although the WHO reports that vaccines used to eradicate smallpox are up to 85 percent effective against monkeypox.
According to British officials, certain healthcare professionals and others who may have been exposed to monkeypox have been offered a smallpox vaccine.
Monkeypox incidences have been documented in 11 African countries since 1970. Since 2017, Nigeria has been experiencing a big continuous outbreak. According to the WHO, there have been 46 suspected cases this year, 15 of which have now been confirmed.
On May 7, the first European case was verified in an individual returning to England from Nigeria.
According to a University of Oxford academic’s tracker over 100 cases have been confirmed outside of Africa since then.
Many of the cases have nothing to do with travelling to the continent. As a result, the cause of this outbreak is unknown, while health officials have stated that there may be some community spread.
CLINICS FOR SEXUAL HEALTH
The early cases are unusual for three reasons, according to the WHO: all but one have no relevant travel history to areas where monkeypox is endemic; most are being detected through sexual health services and among men who have sex with men; and the widespread geographic spread across Europe and beyond suggests that transmission has been ongoing for some time.
In the United Kingdom, where 20 cases have already been confirmed, the UK Health Security Agency stated that recent instances in the country were primarily among men who self-identified as gay, bisexual, or having sex with men.
Portugal discovered nine new cases on Friday, bringing the total to 23.
The preceding 14 cases were all discovered at sexual health clinics and involved men aged 20 to 40 who self-identified as gay, bisexual, or having sex with men.
It was too early to tell if the condition had evolved into a sexually transmitted disease, according to Alessio D’Amato, the health commissioner of Italy’s Lazio province. So far, three instances have been documented throughout the country.
“I believe it’s a little bit of a reach to think there’s some form of sexual transmission in this,” said Stuart Neil, professor of virology at Kings College London.
According to the WHO, scientists are sequencing the virus from different cases to discover if they are linked.