Infection with smallpox in monkeys has historically been recorded only among humans with ties to the central and West Africa. But over the past few weeks in countries such as the UK, US, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Sweden and Canada, cases have been reported, mostly among young people who have not previously traveled to Africa.
According to the latest data from the World Health Organization (WHO), there are about 80 confirmed cases and another 50 suspects worldwide.
This was stated by virologist Oevale Tomori, former head of the Nigerian Academy of Sciences Associated Press: “I am stunned by this. Every day I wake up and more and more countries are infected. ”
Tomori, who is a member of several WHO advisory boards, added: “This is not the spread we have seen in West Africa, so something new could happen in the West.”
Typical symptoms of monkeypox include fever, headache, muscle aches, back pain, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion.
So far no one has died from the outbreak, but according to WHO estimates, the disease is fatal to one in 10 people.
The European Center for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended isolating all suspected cases and offering high-risk vaccines to people at high risk.
According to the WHO, about 3,000 cases of monkeypox are reported in Nigeria each year.
Tomori said outbreaks usually occur in rural areas when people come into close contact with infected rats and proteins, but added that many cases are probably missed.
On Friday, the UK Health Agency (UKHSA) found eleven more cases of monkeypox in England. Recent infections lead to a total of confirmed cases in England from May 6 to 20.
Dr Susan Hopkins, UKHSA’s Chief Medical Adviser, said: “We expected that further cases would be detected through active case detection through NHS services and increased vigilance of health professionals.
“We expect this increase to continue in the coming days and more cases will be detected in the general public. Along with this, we receive reports of new cases in other parts of the world.
“We continue to quickly investigate the source of these infections and raise awareness among healthcare professionals. We contact any identified close contacts of patients to provide information and advice on health. ”
She said a significant proportion of recent cases in the UK and Europe have been found in gays and bisexuals, and urged them to be particularly “vigilant for symptoms and seek help if it worries”. Health officials in Spain and Portugal also said their cases were with young people who mostly had sex with other men.
Dr Hopkins ’comments appear when health officials in the UK are investigating whether the virus is sexually transmitted, but experts stressed that they do not know whether the disease is spread through sex or other close sex-related contacts.
Tomori said AP that, although there was no sexual transmission in Nigeria, it was later proven that viruses that were not originally sexually transmitted, such as Ebola, after larger epidemics showed different patterns of spread.
He said the same could be true of monkeypox.
Meanwhile, German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach has announced that Berlin is confident the outbreak can be contained.
He said the virus is undergoing sequencing to find out if there were any genetic changes that could make it more contagious.
Elsewhere, Rolf Gustafson, an infectious disease expert, told Swedish television SWT that it was “very difficult” to imagine that the flash had ignited.
“We will certainly find some other cases in Sweden, but I do not think there will be an epidemic anyway,” he said, adding: “Currently there is no evidence of this.”
Christian Happi, director of the African Center for Excellence in Infectious Genomics, said: “We have never seen anything like this happening in Europe.
“We have not seen anything that could say that monkeypox transmission schemes have changed in Africa. So if something else is happening in Europe, Europe should investigate it. “
He also said the suspension of smallpox vaccination campaigns – which also protects against smallpox – after the eradication of the disease in 1980 could inadvertently contribute to the spread of monkeys.
Hapi said: “Except for people in West and Central Africa who may have some immunity to smallpox from previous exposure, the lack of smallpox vaccination means no one is immune to monkeypox.”
His remarks came at a time when health officials in South Africa are calling for an investigation into the outbreak of the European epidemic to identify those who were first infected with monkeypox.
Shabir Mahdi, a professor of vaccinology at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, said: “We need to really understand how it started and why the virus is now gaining momentum.
“Outbreaks of monkeypox have been very controlled and rare in Africa. If this is changing now, we really need to understand why. “