Eleven Countries Report Monkeypox Cases
The World Health Organization (WHO) announced that the monkeypox outbreak has expanded to 11 non-endemic countries, with about 80 confirmed cases and 50 more under investigation. This is the largest and most widespread monkeypox outbreak ever seen in the EU as eight countries in the region have reported cases. The WHO Strategic and Technical Advisory Group on Infectious Hazards with Pandemic and Endemic Potential (STAG IH) announced an emergency meeting today to discuss the outbreak.
"As we enter the summer season in the European region, with mass gatherings, festivals and parties, I am concerned that transmission could accelerate, as the cases currently being detected are among those engaging in sexual activity, and the symptoms are unfamiliar to many," said Hans Kluge, Regional Director for Europe, WHO.
On May 13, 2022, the first monkeypox cases were confirmed in the UK. The disease has since spread across the EU. Australia announced its first monkeypox case today and Canada and the US have also reported cases. “The return of high-volume travel and close interactions of large numbers of people has once again allowed for an astonishing rapid propagation around the world,” said Michael Libman, Director, JD MacLean Centre for Tropical Diseases.
Although there were rumors regarding the arrival of monkeypox to Mexico, the country’s Ministry of Health denied them.
Despite its rapid propagation, some experts state that it is unlikely for this outbreak to be as severe as the COVID-19 one. “The current epidemiology of monkeypox cases is unusual, because most cases are unlinked and will mean that vigilance is required across the world, but unlike SARS-CoV-2 this virus is better understood and methods to prevent its spread can be actioned swiftly,” said David Tscharke, Head of the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, John Curtin School of Medical Research as reported by RACGP.
Monkeypox symptoms are a rash, fever, headaches, muscle aches, low energy and swollen lymph nodes. The symptoms usually disappear within 14 and 21 days. To avoid getting the disease, WHO recommends avoiding contact with those with symptoms, washing hands and objects and wearing a mask if close contact cannot be avoided. It also suggests avoiding unprotected contact with wild animals and cooking all foods containing animal meat.
Although in 2019 a monkeypox vaccine was approved, its availability is limited. Consequently, currently there is no vaccine or treatment available for this disease. The smallpox vaccine has an efficacy rate of 85 percent against monkeypox, as reported by WHO.
“Individuals contracting monkeypox must not be stigmatized or discriminated against in any way. Timely risk communication with the general public is important, and public health bodies should widely disseminate accurate and practical advice on prevention, diagnosis and treatment,” added Kluge.