Health authorities in North America and Europe have discovered dozens of suspected or confirmed cases of monkeypox since early May, raising fears of the disease being endemic to parts of Africa.
Canada was the latest country to report that it was investigating more than a dozen suspected cases of monkeypox, after Spain and Portugal found and verified more than 40 possible cases.
Britain has confirmed nine cases since May 6, and the United States verified its first case on Wednesday, saying a man in eastern Massachusetts had tested positive for the virus after visiting Canada.
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The disease, from which most people recover within several weeks and is only rarely fatal, has infected thousands of people in parts of central and western Africa in recent years, but is rare in Europe and North Africa.
The World Health Organization said on Tuesday it was coordinating with health officials in the United Kingdom and Europe on the new outbreak.
“We really need to better understand how common monkeypox is in endemic countries… to really understand how widespread it is and the risks it poses to the people who live there, as well as the export risks,” said infectious disease epidemiologist Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove said at a WHO news conference on Tuesday on global health issues.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said in a statement that the first case in Britain was of a person who had traveled from Nigeria, although later cases may have been through community transmission.
Dr Susan Hopkins, UKHSA’s senior medical advisor, said: “These recent cases, along with reports of cases in countries across Europe, confirm our initial concerns that monkeypox could spread within our communities.”
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The World Health Organization said it was also investigating that many of the reported cases were of gay, bisexual or men who have sex with men.
“We are seeing transmission of infection between men who have sex with men,” Assistant Director-General of the World Health Organization Dr. Seuss Fall said at the press conference.
“This is new information that we need to properly investigate to better understand the dynamics of local transmission in the UK and some other countries.”
There is no danger to the public
The United States Health Services Authority (UKHSA) noted that monkeypox had not previously been described as a sexually transmitted disease, stressing that it “can be transmitted through direct contact during sex.”
“Anyone, regardless of sexual orientation, can spread monkeypox through contact with bodily fluids, monkeypox sores, or shared items (such as clothing and bedding) that have been contaminated with fluids or sores of a person with monkeypox,” the American Centers for Disease Control said in a statement. Control and Prevention (CDC) on Wednesday, adding that household disinfectants can kill the virus on surfaces.
The US agency indicated that the disease often begins with flu-like symptoms such as fever, muscle aches and swollen lymph nodes before causing a chickenpox-like rash on the face and body.
The case there, the first confirmed case this year in the United States, occurred in a patient who had recently traveled to Canada and “poses no danger to the public,” the Massachusetts Department of Health said, adding that the individual is in hospital and in good condition.
Read also | England has detected four more cases of monkeypox
Health authorities in the Canadian province of Quebec announced that they are investigating at least 13 suspected cases of monkeypox, CBC public broadcaster reported Wednesday.
The Montreal authorities reported the cases after the diagnosis was made at several clinics specializing in sexually transmitted diseases and blood.
Public Health Canada (PHAC) told CBC that it had called on “public health authorities and laboratory partners across Canada to exercise caution and investigate any potential cases.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), no cases of monkeypox were reported for 40 years before it reappeared in Nigeria in 2017.
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