Health authorities in Europe, North America, and Australia have begun to investigate an outbreak of monkeypox, raising concerns that a broader outbreak of the viral infection could be underway in the West.
Monkeypox is a viral disease typically endemic to central and western Africa, but since the start of May, dozens of confirmed cases have been reported in several countries outside of the continent. Many more suspected cases are being investigated.
A 1971 photo from the Center For Disease Control handout shows monkeypox-like lesions on the arm and leg of a female child in Bondua, Liberia. (CDC/Getty Images)
As of writing, The Epoch Times' Nicholas Dolinger reports that monkeypox has been reported in 13 countries: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Israel, Belgium, Netherlands, and the United States. Among these, Portugal, Spain, and the UK have confirmed the largest number of cases, with the others having confirmed cases only in the single digits.
Europe should expect a wave of monkeypox cases in the coming months, according to Hans Kluge, the World Health Organization's top official on the continent.
“As we enter the summer season… with mass gatherings, festivals and parties, I am concerned that transmission [of monkeypox] could accelerate,” Kluge said on Friday.
The number of the infected could rise because “the cases currently being detected are among those engaging in sexual activity,” and many don't recognize the symptoms, he added.
The current spread of the virus in Western Europe is “atypical” as it was previously confined mostly to central and west Africa, the WHO regional director for Europe added.
“All but one of the recent cases have no relevant travel history to areas where monkeypox is endemic,” Kluge said.
Kluge's concerns were shared by UK Health Security Agency's chief medical adviser, Susan Hopkins, who said she expected “this increase to continue in the coming days and for more cases to be identified in the wider community.”
The CDC noted that in the case of the United Kingdom, there was a “temporally clustered group of cases involving four people who self-identify as gay, bisexual, or men who have sex with men.”
“Some evidence suggests that cases among [men who have sex with men] may be epidemiologically linked; the patients in this cluster were identified at sexual health clinics,” it stated. “This is an evolving investigation and public health authorities hope to learn more about routes of exposure in the coming days.”
Symptoms of a case of the monkeypox virus are shown on a patient’s hand on May 27, 2003. (CDC/Getty Images)
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an advisory on Friday asking doctors across the United States to be on the watch for monkeypox.
The CDC is asking doctors to “be vigilant to the characteristic rash associated with monkeypox” and describes the rash as involving “vesicles or pustules that are deep-seated, firm or hard, and well-circumscribed,” adding that the lesions “may umbilicate or become confluent and progress over time to scabs.”
“Lesions may be disseminated or located on the genital or perianal area alone,” the CDC also stated in its advisory.
“Some patients may present with proctitis, and their illness could be clinically confused with a sexually transmitted infection (STI) like syphilis or herpes, or with varicella zoster virus infection,” the agency adds.
Proctitis is inflammation of the lining of the rectum and can cause rectal pain, diarrhea, bleeding, and discharge.
The Biden administration on May 18 placed an order for millions of doses of a vaccine intended to protect against smallpox and monkeypox from Bavarian Nordic, a Denmark-based biotech company. The vaccine is approved under the name Jynneos in the United States, available to those at high risk of smallpox and monkeypox.
Mimi Nguyen Ly writes at The Epoch Times that, according to the CDC, because the monkeypox virus is related to the virus that causes smallpox, the vaccine can protect people from getting monkeypox.
“Past data from Africa suggests that the smallpox vaccine is at least 85 [percent] effective in preventing monkeypox,” the CDC stated.
“The effectiveness of [Jynneos] against monkeypox was concluded from a clinical study on the immunogenicity of Jynneos and efficacy data from animal studies.
“Smallpox and monkeypox vaccines are effective at protecting people against monkeypox when given before exposure to monkeypox. Experts also believe that vaccination after a monkeypox exposure may help prevent the disease or make it less severe.”