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Germany, France, Belgium confirm monkeypox

May 20, 2022

A patient in the German state of Bavaria has been infected with monkeypox, according to the Bundeswehr Institute of Microbiology in Munich. First cases were also detected in France and Belgium.

This 2003 electron microscope image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows mature, oval-shaped monkeypox virions, left, and spherical immature virions, right, obtained from a sample of human skin associated with the 2003 prairie dog outbreak
Mature, oval-shaped monkeypox virions and spherical immature virions, obtained from a sample of human skinImage: Cynthia S. Goldsmith, Russell Regner/CDC/AP/picture alliance

Unusual spread of monkeypox cases

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday called a meeting to discuss the outbreak of monkeypox in several countries.

A WHO spokesperson told the Reuters news agency the meeting of the WHO Strategic and Technical Advisory Group on Infectious Hazards with Pandemic and Endemic Potential, was one of several taking place daily. He did not provide further details. 

Germany, France and Belgium  on Friday confirmed their first cases of monkeypox, becoming the latest European countries where the disease has spread.

In the past week, Britain, Spain, Portugal, Italy, the United States, Sweden, Australia and Canada all reported infections.

What do we know so far?

The German case was registered in Bavaria on Thursday, according to the Bundeswehr Institute of Microbiology in Munich. The patient exhibited symptoms of skin lesions, a major characteristic of the disease.

Following the announcement, German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said it was only a "matter of time" before monkeypox was discovered in Germany. He expressed confidence that the outbreak could be contained if action is taken quickly.

The French case was detected in a 29-year-old man in the Ile-de-France region, which includes Paris. French health authorities claimed the man had not recently been in a country where the virus had been spreading. 

Belgium reported two cases in the northern Dutch-speaking region of Flanders.

The UK also detected 11 new cases of the disease on Friday, according to Health Secretary Sajid Javid.

What is monkeypox?

The monkeypox virus originated in Africa, where it was first identified in monkeys. The first human case was confirmed in Congo in 1970, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The virus is composed of two main strains. One is the Congo strain, which results in more severe disease and has up to a 10% mortality rate. The other is the West African strain, which has a much lower fatality rate of 1%.

Monkeypox symptoms tend to be milder than those of smallpox. It includes fever, headache, muscle aches and exhaustion, but monkeypox also causes lymph nodes to swell (lymphadenopathy) while smallpox does not, according to the CDC.

The virus can be transmitted from person to person through air droplets, close bodily contact or sharing contaminated linens or objects.

How can monkeypox be treated?

Outbreak in Europe, North America

The first case of monkeypox in Europe was confirmed on May 7. The infected person was an individual who returned to England from Nigeria, where monkeypox is endemic.

The disease was then confirmed in Portugal, with 14 cases, all in young males. Spain has reported seven confirmed cases, while one case has since been reported in Sweden and Italy, respectively.

jcg, wd/rt (Reuters, dpa, AP)

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