African scientists puzzled by monkeypox cases in Europe and US

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Scientists tracking multiple outbreaks of monkeypox in Africa say they are baffled by the disease’s recent spread to Europe and North America.

France, Germany, Belgium and Australia reported their first infections on Friday.

Cases of smallpox-related disease have previously only been found in populations with links to West and Central Africa. But over the past week, the UK, Spain, Portugal, Italy, the US, Sweden and Canada have all reported infections, mostly among young men who have never been to Africa before.

The World Health Organization (WHO) writes that monkeypox has been reported in 11 countries that normally do not have the disease.

“There are about 80 confirmed cases and 50 ongoing investigations. More likely to be reported,” he said, noting that member states and other partners are working to better understand the outbreak.

according to Desease control Centre (CDC), monkeypox symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, back pain, swollen lymph nodes, chills, and fatigue.

Within 1-3 days (and sometimes longer) of a fever, people develop a rash that usually starts on the face and spreads to other parts of the body. The rash may resemble chicken pox or syphilis, and scabs may form and then fall off.

The incubation period for monkeypox is usually 6 to 13 days, but it can be 5 to 21 days.

More monkeypox cases confirmed in UK

According to the World Health Organization, two cases of monkeypox have emerged in the United States in 2021, both linked to recent travel to Nigeria. Nigeria has been experiencing a smallpox outbreak since 2017.

“I was amazed by this. Every day I woke up, more countries were infected,” said virologist Oyewale Tomori, former head of the Nigerian Academy of Sciences and a member of several World Health Organization advisory committees.

“It’s not the kind of spread we’ve seen in West Africa, so maybe something new is going to happen in the West,” he said.

So far, no one has died in the outbreak. Monkeypox usually causes fever, chills, rash, and lesions on the face or genitals. The World Health Organization estimates the disease is fatal to one in 10 people, but a smallpox vaccine is protective and some antiviral drugs are in development.

This 1997 image provided by the CDC shows the right arm and torso of a patient whose skin had numerous lesions from active cases of monkeypox.
(CDC via AP)

British health officials are investigating whether the disease can be sexually transmitted. Health officials are asking doctors and nurses to be vigilant about potential cases, but say the risk to the general population is low. The European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention recommended isolating all suspected cases and providing smallpox vaccine to high-risk contacts.

According to the World Health Organization, Nigeria reports about 3,000 cases of monkeypox each year. Outbreaks typically occur in rural areas, when people come into close contact with infected mice and squirrels, Tomori said. Many cases could be missed, he said.

Dr Ifedayo Adetifa, head of the country’s Centre for Disease Control, said none of the UK patient’s Nigerian contacts had symptoms and an investigation was ongoing.

WHO’s European director, Dr Hans Kruger, called the outbreak “atypical”, saying the outbreak of the disease in many countries on the continent showed that “the spread has persisted for some time”. Most European cases are mild, he said.

This 1997 image provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during an investigation into the monkeypox outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), formerly Zaire, depicts the surface of the back of a monkeypox patient's hand in his recovery phase characteristic rash.

This 1997 image provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during an investigation into the monkeypox outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), formerly Zaire, depicts the surface of the back of a monkeypox patient’s hand in his recovery phase characteristic rash.
(CDC via AP)

according to Centers for Disease Control and PreventionMonkeypox usually requires prolonged contact with an infected person to spread.

Britain’s Health Safety Agency reported 11 new monkeypox cases on Friday, saying a “significant proportion” of recent infections in the UK and Europe occurred in young men who were gay, bisexual or sexually active with no history of travel to Africa middle. with men.

Spanish and Portuguese authorities also said their cases involved mostly young men who had sex with other men, and said the cases were detected when men developed sexual health lesions.

Experts stress that they do not know whether the disease is transmitted sexually or through other close sexual contact.

Tomori said Nigeria had not experienced sexual transmission, but noted that viruses that were initially not known to be sexually transmitted, such as Ebola, were later found to be transmitted after larger epidemics showed different transmission patterns. Sexual transmission occurs.

This 2003 electron microscope image provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows oval-shaped mature monkeypox virions (left) and spherical immature virions (right) from a 2003 prairie dog Outbreak-associated human skin samples were obtained. In recent days, European and U.S. health authorities have identified the disease, which is rare outside Africa.

This 2003 electron microscope image provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows oval-shaped mature monkeypox virions (left) and spherical immature virions (right) from a 2003 prairie dog Outbreak-associated human skin samples were obtained. In recent days, European and U.S. health authorities have identified the disease, which is rare outside Africa.
(Cynthia S. Goldsmith, Russell Regner/CDC via AP)

The same goes for monkeypox, Tomori said.

In Germany, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said the government believed the outbreak could be brought under control. The virus is being sequenced to see if there are any genetic changes that could make it more infectious, he said.

Sajid Javid announced on Friday that 11 new cases of monkeypox had been confirmed. Javid tweeted that he had informed G7 health ministers what was known about the spread of the virus.

The UK now has 20 recorded cases. “Most cases are mild, and I can confirm that we have purchased more doses of an effective monkeypox vaccine,” Javid wrote. »

Javid said the UK was stockpiling a smallpox vaccine to help prevent monkeypox.

“I can confirm that we have purchased more doses,” he said.

The smallpox vaccine protects against monkeypox because the two viruses are similar.

Massachusetts confirms first U.S. case of monkeypox this year

Rolf Gustafson, a professor of infectious diseases, told Swedish TV channel SVT that it was “hard” to imagine things could get worse.

“We will definitely find more cases in Sweden, but I don’t think there will be an outbreak in any way,” Gustafsson said. “Currently, there are no recommendations.”

Scientists say that while it is possible that the first patient in the outbreak contracted the disease in Africa, what is happening now is unusual.

“We’ve never seen anything like this in Europe,” said Christian Happy, director of the African Centre of Excellence in Genomics of Infectious Diseases. “We don’t see any indication that the pattern of monkeypox transmission has changed in Africa. So if something different happens in Europe, then Europe has to look into it. »

Happi also noted that the suspension of smallpox vaccination campaigns following the eradication of smallpox in 1980 may have inadvertently contributed to the spread of monkeypox. The smallpox vaccine also protects against monkeypox, but mass vaccination stopped decades ago.

Francesco Vaia, director of the Spallanzani Infectious Disease Hospital, talks to reporters during a press conference in Rome, Friday, May 20, 2022.

Francesco Vaia, director of the Spallanzani Infectious Disease Hospital, talks to reporters during a press conference in Rome, Friday, May 20, 2022.
(AP Photo/Andrew Medicini)

“With the exception of people in West and Central Africa who may have some immunity to past exposure to monkeypox, the lack of a smallpox vaccine means that no one has any immunity to monkeypox,” said Happy.

Shabir Mahdi, professor of vaccinology at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, said a detailed investigation of the outbreak in Europe, including identifying the first patients, was now crucial.

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“We really need to understand how it started and why this virus is gaining popularity now,” he said. “In Africa, outbreaks of monkeypox are very manageable and rare. If things change now, we Really need to understand why. »

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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