International health watchdog calls on experts to discuss rapid spread of monkeypox, the Telegraph reports
The latest spread of monkeypox virus has prompted the World Health Organization (WHO) to convene an emergency meeting, Britain’s Telegraph reported Friday. Usually confined to forested areas of West and Central Africa, the disease has been spreading rapidly in a number of European countries since early May, as well as the US and Australia.
According to the report, the mechanisms behind the transmission of the virus and possible vaccination strategies are high on the agenda of the meeting. dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Program, is reportedly attending the discussion.
The paper claims that the WHO is investigating whether smallpox vaccines can be used effectively to tackle the spread of monkeypox.
Meanwhile, the UK government has already ordered additional supplies of the smallpox vaccine, which will be given to people who may have been exposed to monkeypox, the Telegraph reported. On top of the 5,000 doses currently on hand by UK authorities, an order has been placed for a further 20,000 injections, according to the report.
UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid said on Friday that a further 11 cases of monkeypox had been identified, doubling the number of known infections in the country.
The newspaper report says that at least six of the confirmed cases in the UK have been detected among gay or bisexual men. However, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has clarified that most of the cases are unrelated.
Authorities believe the first person to test positive for the disease in Britain has recently returned from Nigeria, the newspaper claims.
On Friday, Germany confirmed its first case of monkeypox, as did France, bringing the number of countries affected by the virus outside the African regions where it is endemic to 11, including Australia, Belgium, Canada, Italy, Portugal, Spain , Sweden. , and the US.
French authorities have revealed that the first person infected there is a 29-year-old man with no recent history of travel to areas it is traditionally associated with.
In Portugal, five cases of monkeypox have been confirmed in the Lisbon region, with 15 more currently under investigation. In neighboring Spain, 23 people are being observed for fear that they have contracted the virus. Sweden and Italy also recorded one case each.
Outside of Europe, Australia on Friday reported the first case of monkeypox in Melbourne in a man who had recently traveled to the UK, while another suspicious case is currently under investigation in Sydney.
On Thursday, Canadian health authorities confirmed the first two cases of the disease in the country, while investigating 17 more suspected infections in the province of Quebec.
The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) released a statement saying that the country had never experienced this viral disease before.
On Wednesday, a single case of monkey pox was confirmed in the US state of Massachusetts. The local health department said the man had recently traveled to Canada. The authorities assured the public that they were taking steps to trace the contacts of the infected person. According to an official statement, the said case “poses no risk to the public, and the individual has been hospitalized and is in good condition”.
Monkeypox is mostly spread by wildlife in certain tropical areas of Africa; however, it can also be transmitted from animals to humans. It is not yet known which species are the natural reservoir of monkeypox, and the WHO suspects that they may be rodents.
“Contact with live and dead animals through hunting and consumption of wild game or bushmeat are known risk factors,” the WHO warned.
The incubation period can be between six and 21 days. The disease initially manifests itself in fever, headache, body aches and exhaustion. Patients also often develop a rash, which usually appears first on the face and later spreads to other parts of the body and forms scabs.
Outbreaks have occurred regularly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Nigeria since the 1970s, but have mostly been confined to those areas.
On a more positive note, the virus is not known to spread easily among humans, and the risk to the general public is considered quite low.