five questions on dozens of proven cases in Europe and North America

Monkeypox, usually restricted to parts of Africa, has emerged in Europe and North America. More than thirty cases have been confirmed in Spain, Portugal, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Canada and the United States, and about fifteen others are awaiting results, according to the health authorities of the affected countries on Thursday May 19.

This multiplication of outbreaks since May 6th, the date when the first cases were reported across the English Channel, worry themWorld Health Organization (WHO). Franceinfo answers five questions about this virus transmitted from animals to humans.

Where does this disease come from?

Monkeypox, also known as “monkeypox,” is a rare viral zoonosis observed mainly in remote areas of central and west Africa near tropical rainforests, WHO explains. It arose after the global eradication of smallpox in 1980 and the cessation of smallpox vaccination. This virus was first identified in humans in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Its incubation period generally varies between six and sixteen days. However, it can take up to 21 days.

What are its symptoms?

The disease is characterized by symptoms similar to those of smallpox in the past. But it is less serious, the WHO assures. The infected patient initially suffers from fever, severe headache, muscle pain, a characteristic inflammation of the lymph nodes, back pain and severe fatigue. Then pimples appear, first on the face, then on the palms and soles. The oral mucosa, genitals and cornea can also be affected by this important rash. The World Health Organization explains that it takes two to three weeks for symptoms to disappear in most cases.

How is it transmitted?

Monkeypox belongs to the zoonoses family (diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans and vice versa). Most commonly, the virus is transmitted to humans from infected rodents or primates direct contact with blood, body fluids or broken skin or mucous membranes of these animals. Eating undercooked meat from infected animals can also be a risk factor. This disease owes its name to the fact that the virus was discovered in the laboratory in 1958 in captive monkeys.

That Human-to-human transmission occurs primarily by respiratory droplet particles with prolonged personal contact, putting family members of active cases at higher risk of infection. However, contamination can occur through close contact with skin lesions on an infected subject or items such as bedding that have recently been contaminated with biological fluids or materials from a patient’s lesions, WHO explains.

“It is important to emphasize that monkeypox is not easily transmitted between humans and the overall risk to the general public is very low.”says Dr. Colin Brown, Director of Clinical and Emerging Infections at the British Health Security Agency (Ukhsa)*. According to the WHO, there is no evidence that human-to-human transmission alone can sustain monkeypox in the human population.

Is it dangerous for humans?

There is no specific treatment or preventive vaccination against monkeypox. The patient usually recovers spontaneously with the help of the right care. If smallpox vaccination was effective at the time of vaccination campaigns to prevent the disease, the vaccine is no longer available to the general public because its production has stopped, the WHO reminds. However, the course of the disease is potentially milder in patients who received the smallpox vaccine at a younger age.

Severe cases are related to the duration of exposure to the virus, the patient’s pre-illness condition, or the severity of the complications caused. LThe fatality rate can vary widely (between 1 and 10%) and seems to be particularly related to the age of the patient, since young children are most susceptible to this virus.

What do we know about the cases identified worldwide?

The first confirmed case was reported in the UK on May 6 by the British Health Security Agency (Ukhsa). The patient traveled to Nigeria* between late April and early May. Since then, eight more cases have been identified through Wednesday, May 18.

The Ukhsa has not established a transmission link between these patients. four of them* “appear to have been infected in London”. These presented themselves as “gay, bisexual or sex with other men”states the British agency investigating the source of these infections “rare and unusual”. “Evidence suggests there may be community transmission of monkeypox virus”warns dr Susan Hopkins*, Senior Medical Advisor to the Ukhsa.

For its part, Portugal reported twenty suspected cases on Tuesday. All listed “in the Lisbon region and in the Tagus Valley”indicates the daily Diaro de Noticias (in Portuguese). “Fourteen cases (are) confirmed and at least two others (have) a high probability that they are also infections.” All of these cases are “For most youngsters all male”and present them “ulcerative lesions“, Details from the Portuguese Directorate General of Health in a press release. However, “It’s not a disease related to sexual options,” assures infectious disease specialist Jaime Nina to the Portuguese newspaper.

Its neighbor Spain issued a health alert on Wednesday after discovering eight suspected cases in Madrid. The eight men concerned are awaiting confirmation of their contagions, which do not appear to be linked, underlines El País (in Spanish). The director of the Center for the Coordination of Health Alerts and Emergencies (CCAES) of the Ministry of Health, Fernando Simonhas explained that“Monkeypox is unlikely to cause significant transmission [en Espagne]but (this) cannot be ruled out”.

A first confirmed case in the Stockholm region was also discovered in Sweden on Thursday. According to the Swedish health authority, it is the infected person “is not seriously ill, but has been treated”. Swedish health authorities said they are currently investigating with support from regional infection control centers to find out “when there are more cases in the country”.

On the other side of the Atlantic, a dozen suspected cases were also reported in Canada on Wednesday. “At the moment Quebec has no confirmed cases”informed thea spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Social Care, Marjorie Larouche, daily The press. However, Health Canada says it is closely monitoring the situation while ensuring no cases have been reported as of May 18. And in the United States, a man who recently traveled to Canada tested positive for the disease in Massachusetts.

* All of these links refer to English language content

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