HomeHealth ResourcesRare Monkeypox Outbreak in Europe; Cases Now Seen in US

Rare Monkeypox Outbreak in Europe; Cases Now Seen in US

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The World Health Organization (WHO) is holding emergency meetings as monkeypox, a rare viral disease, has been reported in countries all over the world.

The virus, usually found in West Africa, appears to be spreading, and cases have emerged in people who haven’t travelled recently.

The CDC is closely monitoring the spread of the “rare but potentially serious viral illness” that manifests with flu-like symptoms and a rash all over the body, but often around the genitals.

Although the outbreak is small at the present time, it is growing, and health authorities are concerned because of the disease’s rarity. Agencies are investigating how the virus is spreading. “

This [outbreak] is rare and unusual,” epidemiologist Susan Hopkins, chief medical advisor of the UK Health Security Agency, said in a statement on Monday.

In the UK, the WHO has declared an emergency due to the spread of monkeypox. Cases were expected to double from 20 to over 40 today, according to the Times of London

Canada has confirmed two people who tested positive, and has several other possible cases in Montreal. 

There’s a possible case in a man being treated in NYC. 

The first case in the US was confirmed Tuesday in Massachusetts.

France, Belgium, Portugal, Spain and Germany are among several European countries that have reported a growing number of cases. 

Monkeypox causes flu-like symptoms, enlarged lymph nodes, and “pox,” which are fluid-filled blisters on the body. The fatality rate is less than 1% and the illness usually resolves in 2-4 weeks. 

Even though it is not classified as a sexually transmitted disease, there appear to be clusters of incidence of monkeypox in gay and bisexual men. The CDC stresses that other people can also be at risk, and the outbreak is not limited to gay men. 

The CDC warned, “Men who report sex with other men, and those who have close contact with them” should  pay attention to “any unusual rashes or lesions.” 

In West or Central Africa, people typically catch the virus from animal bites. Transmission between humans is rare, requiring intimate contact via bodily fluids, like saliva, coughing or pus from the pox lesions.  Nearly all of the cases reported in the UK had no history of travel to Africa. The patient in Massachusetts had not been in Africa either, but had been in Canada, where cases were reported. 

There is a vaccine for monkeypox (and smallpox), that was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2019. According to a statement from the FDA, “This vaccine is also part of the Strategic National Stockpile, the nation’s largest supply of potentially life-saving pharmaceuticals and medical supplies for use in a public health emergency that is severe enough to cause local supplies to be depleted.”

Although named “monkeypox,” the virus does not come from monkeys. The name originated from an outbreak in 1958 of the virus in monkeys used in scientific research. The virus more likely spreads via squirrels and rodents. 

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