Monkeypox in Europe: how the virus is transmitted and who is at risk

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    Monkeypox in Europe: how the virus is transmitted and who is at risk

    Outbreaks of monkeypox, related to smallpox that was eradicated in the 1970s, are recorded in different parts of Europe . Unlike its predecessor, monkeypox has found a new way of transmitting the virus.

    Monkeypox came to Europe, young men are at risk

    On Wednesday, May 19, the authorities of Spain and Portugal announced that they had recorded more than 40 cases of suspected rare disease – monkeypox. Outbreaks are concentrated in the areas of Madrid and Lisbon. The announcement comes after a few days earlier, UK health authorities reported that the country also had 7 cases of monkeypox in May.

    The Madrid authorities add that 23 possible cases of monkeypox infection have been identified in the region, most of them sexually transmitted. said Elena Andradas, head of the public health department of the Madrid region.

    Monkeypox in Europe: how the virus is transmitted and who is at risk

    The Portuguese Minister of Health said there were 20 probable cases of monkeypox in Lisbon.

    “All cases were among men, most of them young,” the Portuguese Ministry of Health said in a statement.

    Four new cases of monkeypox in the UK announced on 16 May also involve gay men. It is noted that the three British patients have nothing to do with previous cases, the fourth carrier of the virus traveled to Nigeria.

    Monkeypox has also reached the United States, where the first case of infection was reported in Massachusetts on May 18. Earlier last year, two cases of monkeypox were reported in the United States in people returning from Nigeria.

    What is monkeypox: a rare disease

    So far, most cases of monkeypox have been reported in the rainforest areas of the Congo Basin and West Africa. As the name suggests, monkeypox was first discovered in laboratory primates in the late 1950s. True, scientists cannot say for sure that it is animals that are the main carriers of the virus, so the name may be incorrect. The latest findings suggest that small animals such as rodents may be the main reservoir for the virus, writes The Conversation.

    Monkeypox is a virus that is structurally related to smallpox but has a milder course of the disease. Monkeypox, like smallpox itself, belongs to the group of orthopoxviruses or poxviruses.

    Monkeypox in Europe: how the virus is transmitted and who is at risk

    Unlike the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, monkeypox does not spread easily from person to person. Infection usually occurs through close contact with animal carriers or through very close contact with infected people and surfaces contaminated with the virus. It is also known that monkeypox does not spread asymptomatically as COVID-19 does.

    Symptoms of monkeypox

    People with monkeypox usually develop a fever, a characteristic body rash and blisters . In most cases, the disease resolves on its own, and its symptoms disappear after a few weeks.

    Monkeypox in Europe: how the virus is transmitted and who is at risk

    In some cases, monkeypox can still cause a severe course of the disease, in outbreaks the fatality rate can vary from 1% to 15% . Severe and fatal cases are more likely among children.

    Monkeypox is sexually transmitted

    The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) says some cases of monkeypox reported in May cannot be explained by international travel. British doctors suggest that the virus could be transmitted already among the population in Europe.

    Four of the seven infected Britons are gay, bisexual or representatives of other sexual minorities. A similar pattern is observed in Spain.

    Monkeypox in Europe: how the virus is transmitted and who is at risk

    It is noted that earlier cases when monkeypox was sexually transmitted were not recorded. Although it is known that the virus can be transmitted through close contact of people.

    Is there a vaccine against monkeypox and will there be another pandemic?

    There is no special vaccine against monkeypox in the world.

    However, British and American health experts say the risk of a major outbreak of monkeypox remains minimal. Fortunately, unlike the situation with the coronavirus pandemic, people have a means to curb the virus. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the smallpox vaccine, the antiviral drug cidofovir, and the vaccinia vaccine can be effectively used to control monkeypox.

    Some experts suggest that the current outbreak of monkeypox may have been triggered by the cessation widespread vaccination against smallpox, which was eradicated in the 1970s.

    The cessation of mass vaccination against smallpox could reduce population immunity. And thanks to global trade and travel, poxviruses have had the exciting ability to spread over large areas.

    UCLA epidemiologist Ann Rimouin says weakened immune defenses due to smallpox eradication have helped poxviruses evolve again. “No good deed goes unpunished. You can kill one virus, but leave room for another,” Anne Rimouin told the Washington Post.

    CDC Agam Rao says other factors could also be linked to the new monkeypox outbreak. For example, climate and environmental change, which have led to closer contact between people and animals.

    “Now we are at a stage where we need to first find out how this [the emergence and development of the disease] happens, and therefore already we will be able to offer a solution to the problem, such as vaccination,” the expert sums up.

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