Monkeypox latest news summary | 20 May 2022
Monkeypox outbreak: live updates
Monkeypox outbreak: headlines
- US government orders $119 million of smallpox vaccine Jynneos - does it protect against monkeypox?
- Chief Medical Advisor in UK warns: "We expect this increase to continue in the coming days"
- Concern that the monkeypox virus may now be spreading through sexual contact for the first time
- Australia confirms first case via traveller from UK
- New cases detected in Germany, Netherlands, Belgium and Italy
- Monkeypox first detected in UK, Spain, Portugal, France, Canada and US
- One confirmed US case of monkeypox, in Massachusetts
- US case "poses no risk to the public", Massachusetts Department of Health says
Useful information on monkeypox
- Monkeypox: Everything you need to know
In recent weeks there have been a small number of confirmed cases of monkeypox, a viral disease usually only found in Africa, in Europe and further afield. Health experts have reiterated that there is no danger to the public as it stands, but the wider spread of the disease may suggest that it is now able to pass between people more efficiently than before.
On Wednesday the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that its labs confirmed the presence of monkeypox in the United States, but how many cases have there been so far?
“This is a known disease we know quite a lot about. Occasionally they get out of west and central Africa - to the US, to Europe, we’ve had cases here before.
“Usually if you interrupt the trains of transmission, you can knock this disease on its head.”
“It’s still quite small numbers. What happens is, it’s quite an infectious virus, not as infectious or as airborne as Covid and things we’re used to like flu, but it can move from person to person.
“You need to be pretty close, it’s droplet spread, so it’s families, it’s sexual partners, it’s people who are in very close proximity.
WHO to hold emergency monkeypox meeting
The World Health Organization (WHO) was scheduled to hold a meeting today to discuss the dangers posed by the monkeypox outbreak in Europe and the United States. The number of cases found (roughly 80 so far) is still tiny but experts are studying how the virus has managed to spread from Africa, where it is more typically found.
This report from Reuters explains: "The committee due to meet is the Strategic and Technical Advisory Group on Infectious Hazards with Pandemic and Epidemic Potential (STAG-IH), which advises WHO on infection risks that could pose a threat to global health."
"STAG-IH is not the committee within WHO that would suggest that monkeypox be declared a public health emergency of international concern," it continues.
The United States recorded the first case of monkeypox of 2022 earlier this week, as further infections were found in Spain, Portugal and the United Kingdom. The rare virus is hardly ever identified outside of Africa so the dozens of cases in Europe this year has caused some concern amongst experts.
In a statement released this week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed that “the case poses no risk to the public, and the individual is hospitalized and in good condition.” So how serious actually is monkeypox, and what are the symptoms?
How dangerous is monkeypox?
Researchers in Europe and the United States have recorded higher than normal numbers of monkeypox infections in recent weeks, unusual given that the virus is typically only found in areas of Africa. The response has been one of caution as scientists study the reasons for the outbreak and whether the virus poses a threat to the public at large. However for now it is not thought that the virus is capable of rapid transmission in the same way that covid-19 is, and so it does not appear to be anyway near as threatening.
Expert warns we should learn from covid-19 with response to monkeypox threat
In recent weeks the number of cases of monkeypox reported outside of Africa, where the virus is typically found, has soared. The total number is still just a few dozen but the sudden rise is causing concern and some suggestion that the virus may have learnt to transmit in a new way, possibly through sexual contact.
For now there appears to be little threat to the public but experts are warning that we take a lesson from the botched covid-19 response and act with caution from the outset.
"We expect this increase to continue in the coming days and for more cases to be identified in the wider community. Alongside this we are receiving reports of further cases being identified in other countries globally."
"A notable proportion of recent cases in the UK and Europe have been found in gay and bisexual men so we are particularly encouraging them to be alert to the symptoms and seek help if concerned."
How many cases of monkeypox have there been?
In recent weeks researchers have noticed an increase in the number of cases of monkeypox found outside of Africa, where the virus is more usually found. For a disease as rare as this, scientists would not expect to find cases in Europe in the United States, but dozens have now been confirmed. Portugal and Spain in Western Europe currently have more cases than anywhere outside of the African continent.
The US has declared its first case of monkeypox. Though the numbers are small, just one person, people can be forgiven for being worried about diseases as covid-19 still plays a large role in peoples lives.
In terms of the one confirmed case in the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the local boards of health said they are carrying out contact tracing, adding that “the case poses no risk to the public, and the individual is hospitalized and in good condition.”
Several suspected monkeypox cases in Netherlands
Several suspected cases of monkeypox have been identified in the Netherlands, news agency ANP reported on Friday, citing the government's health agency.
Definitive tests are not yet available, the agency reported, citing the National Insitute for Health (RIVM). The RIVM could not immediately be reached for comment.
More than 100 cases of monkeypox, a viral infection more common to west and central Africa, have been reported in Europe this week, with German officials describing the outbreak as the largest ever in the region.
Unusual cases of monkeypox
Since 1970, monkeypox cases have been reported in 11 African countries. Nigeria has had a large outbreak since 2017 - so far this year there have been 46 suspected cases, of which 15 have since been confirmed, according to the WHO.
The first European case was confirmed on May 7 in an individual who returned to England from Nigeria.
Since then, more than 100 cases have been confirmed outside Africa, according to a tracker by a University of Oxford academic.
Many of the cases are not linked to travel to the continent.
As a result, the cause of this outbreak is unclear, although health authorities have said that there is potentially some degree of community spread.
In Britain, where 20 cases have been now confirmed, the UK Health Security Agency said the recent cases in the country were predominantly among men who self-identified as gay, bisexual or men who have sex with men.
The 14 cases in Portugal that were all detected in sexual health clinics are also in men who self-identify as gay, bisexual or men who have sex with men.
It is too early to say if the illness has morphed into a sexually transmitted disease, said Alessio D'Amato, health commissioner of the Lazio region in Italy. Three cases have been reported so far in the country.
Sexual contact, by definition, is close contact, added Stuart Neil, professor of virology at Kings College London.
"The idea that there's some sort of sexual transmission in this, I think, is a little bit of a stretch," he said.
Scientists are sequencing the virus from different cases to see if they are linked, the WHO has said. The agency is expected to provide an update soon.
Monkeypox outbreak in Europe 'largest ever' in region as cases cross 100
More than 100 cases of monkeypox, a viral infection more common to west and central Africa, have been reported in Europe, with German officials describing the outbreak as the largest ever in the region.
Cases have now been confirmed in countries including the United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, France, the United States and Australia.
First identified in monkeys, the disease typically spreads through close contact and has rarely spread outside Africa, so this series of cases has triggered concern.
However, scientists do not expect the outbreak to evolve into a pandemic like COVID-19, given the virus does not spread as easily as SARS-COV-2.
Monkeypox is usually a mild viral illness, characterised by symptoms of fever as well as a distinctive bumpy rash.
"With several confirmed cases in the United Kingdom, Spain and Portugal, this is the largest and most widespread outbreak of monkeypox ever seen in Europe," said Germany's armed forces' medical service, which detected its first case in the country on Friday.
Fabian Leendertz, from the Robert Koch Institute, described the outbreak as an epidemic.
"However it is very unlikely that this epidemic will last long. The cases can be well isolated via contact tracing and there are also drugs and effective vaccines that can be used if necessary," he said.
There isn't a specific vaccine for monkeypox, but data shows that vaccines that were used to eradicate smallpox are up to 85% effective against monkeypox, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
British authorities on Thursday said they had offered a smallpox vaccine to some healthcare workers and others who may have been exposed to monkeypox.
Monkeypox worries Portuguese health body but transmission risk is low
The health authority in Portugal, the country with the most monkeypox cases, said that it was worried about the spread of the disease but asked people to stay calm as the transmission risk was low.
Portugal has reported 23 cases of monkeypox and there are around 20 suspected infections, the spokesperson for the country's monkeypox working group, Margarida Tavares, told Reuters in a video interview.
Monkeypox is a usually a mild viral illness, characterised by fever and a distinctive bumpy rash.
The outbreaks in Britain, Portugal, Spain, the United States and other countries raised alarm because the disease, which spreads through close contact and was first found in monkeys, mostly occurs in West and Central Africa, and only very occasionally elsewhere.
"The health authority... is worried... It is important to act in the right way and make the right decisions to break transmission chains," Tavares said. "(But) the risk for the population is low."
"It is not a disease that is easily transmitted." Tavares said cases in Portugal were all detected in sexual health clinics and those infected were men aged between 20 and 40 years old who self-identified as gay, bisexual or men who have sex with men.
They all have mild symptoms and their health status is improving. No one has been hospitalised.
There are two main strains: the Congo strain, which is more severe – with up to 10% mortality – and the West African strain, which has a fatality rate of about 1%. Portugal's cases are of the West African strain.
None of those infected have traveled to Africa and authorities have not been able to identify a link between the cases, she added.
The Portuguese health authority has asked those with symptoms to refrain from direct physical contact with others. Tavares said vaccination was being discussed in Portugal, but it would not happen immediately as it must "very well thought out".
Portugal's monkeypox tally now at 23
Portugal reports nine new monkeypox confirmed cases, bringing its overall tally to 23 the Portuguese Health Board confirmed on Friday.
UK confirms 11 new cases of monkeypox
The UK Health Security Agency has confirmed 11 new cases of monkeypox in Britain, health minister Sajid Javid said on Friday.
Britain had previously reported a total of nine cases of the usually mild viral illness, characterised by symptoms of fever as well as a distinctive bumpy rash.
"UKHSA have confirmed 11 new cases of monkeypox in the UK. This morning I updated G7 Health Ministers on what we know so far," Javid said on Twitter.
"Most cases are mild, and I can confirm we have procured further doses of vaccines that are effective against Monkeypox."
Australia on Friday reported its first monkeypox case in a traveller who recently returned from Britain, while a probable case of infection was identified with testing being carried out to confirm it.
A man in his 30s who arrived in Melbourne on Monday has the virus, Victoria state's health department said, while the probable case was identified in Sydney in a man in his 40s who had recently travelled to Europe.
Both men developed mild illness after arriving back in Australia with symptoms clinically compatible with monkeypox, health officials said.
"Just to reassure the community, it is not the same spread mechanism as COVID or flu, where it is more fleeting," New South Wales state Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant told reporters.
Australian health officials have taken steps to identify and manage any monkeypox cases including clinical alerts to doctors and hospitals, Chant said.
Belgium detects first two monkeypox cases
Belgian health experts were due to meet on Friday after the country detected its first two cases of monkeypox, authorities said.
The cases were diagnosed in different cities, though Flemish broadcaster VRTNWS said both patients had attended the same party in an undisclosed location. Reuters could not immediately confirm this.
A leading virologist said the number of cases in the country would probably rise.
"I do expect more cases," said Steven Van Gucht from national public health institute Sciensano. As things stood, he was however confident that Belgium would be able to control the spread of the virus, he told Reuters.
The first infected person, diagnosed in Antwerp but whose place of residence was not reported, was not seriously ill and they and their partner were both in isolation, a spokesperson for Belgium's Agency for Care and Health said.
The second case was a man from the region of Flemish Brabant, a Leuven-based virologist, Marc Van Ranst, said on Twitter. That patient was also not seriously ill, according to Belgian media.
Spain's monkeypox cases tally rises to 21
Regional authorities in Madrid reported 14 confirmed cases of monkeypox on Friday, bringing the total number of cases to 21 in Spain.
There are another 20 suspected cases, 19 in the central region of Madrid and one in the Canary Islands, health authorities said on Friday.
Monkeypox is a usually mild viral infection. Symptoms include fever, headaches and skin rashes.
Several cases have been detected in Britain - where authorities are offering a smallpox vaccine to healthcare workers and others who may have been exposed - and others in other parts of Europe, including in Spain's neighbour Portugal.
Spain is assessing different therapeutic options, such as antivirals and vaccines, but so far all cases have mild symptoms and therefore no specific ad hoc treatment has been necessary, Spanish Health minister Carolina Darias told reporters on Friday.
Germany detects first case of monkeypox
Germany has detected its first case of monkeypox, the German armed forces' medical service said on Friday.
"The Institute for Microbiology of the German Armed Forces in Munich has now also detected the monkeypox virus beyond doubt for the first time in Germany on 19 May 2022 in a patient with characteristic skin lesions," the service said in a statement.
German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said that based on the information available, he assumed the virus was not so easily transmitted and that an outbreak could be contained if health authorities acted quickly.
"We will now analyse the virus more closely and examine
whether it involves a more contagious variant," he added.
Italy confirms two more monkeypox infections, brings total cases to three
Italy confirmed on Friday two more cases of monkeypox infection at the Spallanzani hospital in Rome, bringing the total cases to three so far in the country.
The Lazio region health commissioner said in a statement that two other suspected infections related to the first detected case had been confirmed.
The Spallanzani hospital said on Thursday that the first patient with monkeypox, a mild viral infection whose symptoms include fever, headaches as well as the distinctive bumpy rash, had come back to Italy from a stay on the Canary Islands.
Is there a cure for monkeypox?
On Wednesday health officials confirmed that a Massachusetts resident had tested positive for monkeypox, a viral disease rarely found outside of Western and Central Africa.
It was the first such case recorded in the United States this year but similar discoveries in Europe, particularly in the United Kingdom, suggest that the virus may be becoming more transmissible.
The risk to the public is incredibly small and cases remain extremely rare, but in Africa studies have found that the virus causes death in as many as one in ten people infected with the virus. There are currently no specific treatments available for monkeypox infection.
What is monkeypox?
Monkeypox is a viral infection first discovered in monkeys in the late 1950s - hence the name. The first human case was recorded in 1970, in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Monkeypox occurs chiefly in west and central African countries, and has symptoms “similar to but milder than the symptoms of smallpox”, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says.
According to the World Health Organization, monkeypox is chiefly transmitted “from direct contact with the blood, bodily fluids, or cutaneous or mucosal lesions of infected animals”.
The WHO describes transmission of monkeypox between humans as “relatively limited”, noting that the longest documented chain of person-to-person transmission is six people.
“Infection can result from close contact with respiratory secretions, skin lesions of an infected person or recently contaminated objects,” the body says. “Transmission via droplet respiratory particles usually requires prolonged face-to-face contact, which puts health workers and household members of active cases at greater risk.”
Monkeypox outbreak, live updates: welcome
Hello and welcome to our live coverage on the outbreak of monkeypox, of which just under 40 confirmed or suspected cases have been reported across the United Kingdom, Spain and Portugal. One case has also been confirmed in the United States.