European health authorities warn on monkeypox

With monkeypox cases rising in Europe, European health authorities are urging countries to take extra steps to bring the spread of the virus under control.

The disease, which is not new, is usually not deadly, and medical experts have said that existing vaccines are effective against it.

Monkeypox is relatively common in some parts of Africa, where it has in the past spread from some kinds of primates and rodents to human populations, and sometimes from human to human. However, until recently, cases in other parts of the world have been rare.

In Europe, Britain has the highest number of confirmed cases, at over 71. Meanwhile, the bulk of the confirmed cases within the European Union are in Spain and Portugal, followed by Italy. Spain has seen at least 55 confirmed cases.

In Portugal, 39 cases of monkeypox have been reported so far, while in Italy the number on Wednesday rose to seven.

Italian news reports indicate that another 15 residents who had been in contact with five patients hospitalized in Rome have been isolated awaiting test results. Most of the cases in Rome are linked to tourists returning from Spain’s Canary Islands.

The Canary Islands confirmed its first case this week, and health officials there have begun testing at-risk individuals.

Meanwhile, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control said this week that the outbreak risked becoming entrenched and difficult to eradicate if person-to-person transmission continues, and if the disease infects Europe’s animal population. However, the risk of the latter happening is believed to be “very low.”

European health officials have urged member states to prepare to conduct contact tracing, and ramp up supplies of vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics.

Stella Kyriakides, European Commissioner for Health and Food safety, said Monday she was “concerned” about the increasing number of monkeypox cases in the European Union (EU) and globally.

“While currently the likelihood of spread in the broader population is low, the situation is evolving,” she said.

The European Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority has begun collaborating with the European Medicines Agency and health officials in individual EUmember states to curb the rising numbers of cases.

The World Health Organization said Tuesday that since the first case was reported on May 7, there have been at least 131 confirmed cases of monkeypox, and 106 suspected cases of the disease in 19 countries outside of Africa. ■

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