Health authorities are on high alert for the spread of monkeypox, a rare virus disease first reported in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the 1970s, following the emergence of new cases in Europe and the first confirmed infection in the US.
Portugal reported on Wednesday identifying five cases of monkeypox. Spain stated that it was testing 23 potential cases, and the state of Massachusetts in the United States announced that it had found one case in a man who had recently visited Canada.
The UK was the first to confirm one case of monkey pox at the beginning of the month. It has now detected 7 cases and is collaborating with the World Health Organization (WHO) to investigate the spread of the virus.
Health authorities suspect that some infections can occur as a result of sexual contact -in this case among gay or bi-sexual men-with four cases from the UK were identified among individuals who visited sexual health clinics after developing the rash associated with monkeypox.
“No source of infection has yet been confirmed for either the family or GBMSM clusters,” the WHO said in a statement on Wednesday. “Based on currently available information, the infection seems to have been locally acquired in the United Kingdom.
The extent of local transmission is unclear at this stage and there is the possibility of identification of further cases.
Monkeypox, similar to human pox, usually starts with a flu-like disease and swelling of the lymph nodes, followed by a facial and body rash. Most people get over the disease that is endemic in parts of Central and Western Africa and generally the result of close contact with infected animals, within a few weeks, but it can be deadly.
The five Portuguese patients, out of 20 suspicious cases, are all in stable condition, according to the country’s health authorities. They are all people who live in the region of Lisbon and the Tagus Valley, they added. Health authorities in Madrid said the cases discovered in Spain were reported to be linked to sexual contact.
“In general, its transmission is via respiratory drops but the characteristics of the 23 suspected infections point to it being passed on through bodily fluids during sex relations,” they said in a statement, without giving further details.
Health officials in the United States reported that the man from Massachusetts who developed monkey pox went to Canada to see friends in late April and went home in early May. He is currently receiving treatment at a hospital.
Jennifer McQuiston of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US stated that although this was the only case known to the CDC.
The agency is in contact with its counterparts in the United Kingdom and Canada during the investigation, but McQuiston said that no link had been established to date.
There are two types of monkey smallpox virus: the Western African clade and the Congo Basin clad. The mortality rate for the West African cloud has been documented at approximately 1percentt, and up to 10 percent for patients with Congo Basin could.
The WHO said that, though vaccination against smallpox has been effective against monkeypox. The end of mass vaccination programs against smallpox meant that people under the age of 40 or 50 were no longer protected.
The UK has previously reported cases of monkeypox – all linked to travel to Nigeria – as has the US. An outbreak there in 2003 was traced back to prairie dogs that had been housed with small animals imported from Ghana that were carrying the virus.