What is monkeypox, this new virus that worries health authorities in Europe?

Still unknown to most Westerners a few days ago, monkeypox suddenly seems to be spreading in Europe like wildfire. While Sweden and Italy announced on Thursday that they too had detected their first human case on their territories, questions around this mysterious disease are piling up. How do we catch it? Is she dangerous? Where has it been detected so far? 20 minutes make the point.

What are the characteristics of monkey pox?

Also called “monkeypox”, monkeypox is a disease that is transmitted naturally from animals to humans and vice versa. From the same family as human smallpox, it can cause similar symptoms: fever, headache, muscle aches, back pain, swollen lymph nodes, chills and fatigue. Rashes can also occur, often on the face, and spread to other parts of the body, including the genitals. There is no cure for this viral infection which is self-curing.

How is monkeypox transmitted?

Monkeypox is transmitted between humans through contact with an affected person or their body fluids, including saliva. “Generally, transmission occurs through the respiratory route,” say health authorities in the Madrid region. They note, however, that “the supposed cases of infection suggest that the transmission took place through the mucous membranes during sexual relations”. “We are seeing transmissions among men who have sex with men,” which is “new information that we need to study properly to better understand the dynamics” of transmission, said Ibrahima Socé Fall, deputy director general of the World Health Organization (WHO) for emergency response, Geneva. However, “anyone, regardless of sexual orientation, can spread monkeypox,” the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) pointed out.

In which countries have cases of monkeypox been reported?

This endemic disease in West Africa first appeared outside the continent on May 6 in the United Kingdom, which has since identified nine. This Wednesday, Spain, Portugal, Canada and the United States have, in turn, reported having spotted the presence of monkeypox, or what seems to be, on their territory. This Thursday, Sweden and Italy in turn indicated that they had detected a first case.

Spain and Portugal have reported having identified around 40 suspected or confirmed cases. In Canada, more than a dozen suspected cases were being examined in Montreal this Wednesday, according to the public channel Radio-Canada, which quotes the city’s health authorities. In the United States, a man who had recently traveled to Canada tested positive in the state of Massachusetts.

Are we heading towards a new pandemic?

Overall, the authorities want to be reassuring, stressing that the disease is not very contagious between humans. Nevertheless, the multiplication of apparent outbreaks worries the WHO and local health authorities. In the United Kingdom, the British health security agency, assures that with the exception of the first case detected which had recently traveled to Nigeria, the transmission between the other cases would have taken place within the country.

Some countries quickly adopted measures to prevent the spread of the virus. The health authorities of Portugal and Spain have thus triggered a national health alert. Italy said the situation was “under constant surveillance” and immediately placed the patient in solitary confinement. Swedish authorities are “now investigating with regional infection control centers to find out if there are more cases”.

In view of the situation, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) says “monitor the situation closely” and recommends “isolating and testing suspected cases and reporting them quickly”. It is expected to publish its first risk assessment report “early next week”.

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