Monkey pox spreads across Europe

After the United States and several European countries, notably Spain and Portugal, France and Germany are in turn affected by monkeypox. While most cases are currently not serious, this unusual wave outside of Africa is of concern to health authorities.

“To date, at least eight (European) countries – Portugal, Spain, Germany, Belgium, France, Italy, the United Kingdom and Sweden – have reported cases of monkeypox. “, summarized Friday in a press release Hans Kluge, head of the European branch of the World Health Organization (WHO).

“Similar and recent cases have also been reported in Australia, Canada and the United States,” he said.

A total of 80 cases are confirmed and around 50 more are under investigation, according to the WHO.

This count, destined to progress in the coming days, only concerns countries where the presence of monkeypox patients is unusual. It is present in normal times, considered “endemic”, in 11 African countries.

This disease is a less dangerous cousin of smallpox, eradicated for about forty years. It first results in a high fever and quickly evolves into a rash, with the formation of scabs, especially on the face.

It won France and Germany on Friday, with one case confirmed in each country by their health authorities.

– A benign strain –

In France, it is a 29-year-old man, located in the Paris region, with no history of travel to a country where the virus is circulating. As soon as his infection was suspected, this person was taken care of and, in the absence of seriousness, has since been isolated at his home.

In Germany, it was the military medical authorities who reported a case, isolated in a clinic in Munich. In Spain, the Ministry of Health has identified 7 confirmed cases and 23 positive cases via PCR of “non-human smallpox” which have yet to be “sequenced to determine the type of smallpox”. 23 cases have been confirmed in Portugal.

They come in addition to a wave started in the United Kingdom where the first patients were spotted in early May.

These cases are currently not serious. Although it is early to be sure, they seem to come out of a rather mild strain of the virus with a mortality rate of 1%. This figure must, moreover, be put into perspective by the fact that it relates to developing countries where health systems are less efficient.

“It must be emphasized that most of the cases currently being examined in Europe are mild,” insisted Mr Klug. “Monkey pox is usually a self-curing disease (…) after a few weeks without treatment.”

However, what worries the health authorities is the fact that these cases appear simultaneously in many countries, in people who, for the most part, had no direct link with the countries where the disease is circulating.

– Follow-up of lighter “contact cases” –

Since 2017, a few imported cases, in particular from Nigeria, had certainly been sporadically identified in several countries, in particular in the United Kingdom, without giving rise to epidemics.

But “recently, the alert is relatively different: the reports made correspond to cases of people who have not traveled to the countries where the virus usually circulates and who have not had contact with people returning from these countries”, underlined Friday during a press point Alexandra Mailles, epidemiologist at Public Health France.

Moreover, these cases occurred mainly, but not exclusively, in men who have sex with men.

Many researchers insist that it is too early to conclude that the virus evolved to become sexually transmitted. But the appearance of these multiple cases in the world raises the question of a contagiousness that has become higher.

Monkeypox is usually transmitted to humans by wild rodents or primates. But human-to-human transmission is also possible, through direct contact with skin lesions or mucous membranes of a sick person, as well as through droplets.

In any case, the health authorities are careful not to draw parallels with the Covid pandemic which has upset the world over the past two years.

“There will be much lighter follow-up of + contact cases + than that of Covid: unlike what happens with the SARS-Cov2 virus, an infected person is not contagious before the onset of symptoms”, a noted Ms. Mailles.

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