With more than 100 cases of monkeypox, a viral infection more common in West and Central Africa, reported in Europe, German officials described the outbreak as the largest in the region.
Cases have now been confirmed in countries including the United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, France, the United States and Australia.
First detected in monkeys, the disease usually spreads through close contact and rarely spreads outside Africa, so the events in this series have caused concern.
However, scientists do not expect the outbreak to become as epidemic as COVID-19, as the virus does not spread as easily as SARS-COV-2.
Monkeypox is usually a mild viral disease, characterized by symptoms of fever as well as a distinct rash.
“With several confirmed cases in the United Kingdom, Spain and Portugal, this is the largest and most widespread outbreak of monkeypox in Europe,” said the German Armed Forces Medical Service, which identified the first case in the country on Friday.
Fabian Lindertz of the Robert Koch Institute described the outbreak as an epidemic.
“However, it is highly unlikely that the epidemic will be long-lasting. Cases can be better isolated through contact detection, and there are drugs and effective vaccines that can be used if needed,” he said.
There is no specific vaccine for monkeypox, but data show that vaccines used to eradicate smallpox are up to 85% effective against monkeypox, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
British authorities said on Thursday they had offered a smallpox vaccine to some health workers and others who came in contact with the monkeypox.
Monkeypox has been reported in 11 African countries since 1970. Nigeria has seen a major outbreak since 2017 – so far this year there have been 46 suspected cases, of which 15 have been confirmed, according to the WHO.
The first European case was confirmed on 7 May in a man returning to England from Nigeria.
More than 100 cases have been confirmed outside Africa since then, according to a tracker from Oxford Academic University.
So far we have counted 66 confirmed and suspected cases # Monkeypox Across 5 countries. Downloadable list of cases + additional metadata and source here: https://t.co/zeTmq4AR31
– Moritz Kramer (@MOUGK) May 18, 2022
In many cases not associated with travel across the continent. As a result, the cause of the outbreak is unclear, although health authorities say there is potential for community outbreaks to some extent.
In Britain, where 20 cases have now been confirmed, the UK Health Security Agency says recent cases in the country have been mainly among men who identify themselves as gay, bisexual or having sex with men.
The 14 cases in Portugal that have been identified in sexual health clinics also include men who identify themselves as gay, bisexual or having sex with men.
Alessio D’Amato, the health commissioner for Italy’s Lazio region, said it was too early to say whether the disease had turned into a sexually transmitted disease. There have been three cases in the country so far.
Stuart Neal, a professor of virology at King’s College London, adds that, by definition, sexual contact is intimate contact.
“The idea that there’s a kind of sexually transmitted infection in it, I think, is a bit widespread,” he said.
Scientists are sequencing the virus from different cases to see if they are connected, the WHO said. The company is expected to provide an update soon.
(This story was not edited by NDTV staff and was automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)