UPDATED: Italian monkeypox cases rise to three, Increase to 20 in UK

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Italian monkeypox cases have risen to three, the Lazio regional health authority said Friday.


 The men are all being treated at Italy’s premier infectious disease hospital, the Spallanzani in Rome, it said.
 The latest two cases are linked to case zero, it said.


 The first case of monkey smallpox, or monkeypox, has been identified in Italy in a man who returned from a stay in the Canary Islands and presented with smallpox symptoms to Rome’s Umberto I Hospital, sources said Thursday.


 Monkeypox was first discovered in 1958 when two outbreaks of a pox-like disease occurred in colonies of monkeys kept for research, hence the name ‘monkeypox.’ The first human case of monkeypox was recorded in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo during a period of intensified effort to eliminate smallpox.

Meanwhile, Monkeypox cases in the UK have more than doubled, with 11 more announced today.

It brings the total number reported in the country to 20 – although there are concerns many cases are going undetected.

Confirming the news, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “This morning I updated G7 health ministers on what we know so far.

“Most cases are mild, and I can confirm we have procured further doses of vaccines that are effective against monkeypox.”

Exactly what is driving the UK’s largest outbreak is a mystery – normally the disease is sporadic and linked to travel in parts of Africa, where it is endemic.

Germany has detected its first case of monkeypox, the German armed forces’ medical service said on Friday.

“The Institute for Microbiology of the German Armed Forces in Munich has now also detected the monkeypox virus beyond doubt for the first time in Germany on 19 May 2022 in a patient with characteristic skin lesions,” the service said in a statement.

French health authorities on Friday confirmed a first case of monkeypox virus in the Paris region, several French media outlets reported, one day after news of a first suspected case emerged.

Monkeypox is a virus that causes fever symptoms as well as a distinctive bumpy rash. It is usually mild, although there are two main strains: the Congo strain, which is more severe – with up to 10% mortality – and the West African strain, which has a fatality rate in about 1% of cases.

A smattering of monkeypox cases in Britain has prompted authorities to offer a smallpox vaccine to some healthcare workers and others who may have been exposed, as a handful more cases were confirmed in parts of Europe.

Monkeypox is a usually mild viral illness, characterised by symptoms of fever as well as a distinctive bumpy rash.

There are two main strains: the Congo strain, which is more severe – with up to 10% mortality – and the West African strain, which has a fatality rate of about 1%.

First identified in monkeys, the viral disease typically spreads through close contact and largely occurs in west and central Africa. It has rarely spread elsewhere, so this fresh spate of cases outside the continent has triggered concern.

There isn’t a specific vaccine for monkeypox, but a smallpox vaccine does offer some protection, a UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) spokesperson said.

Data shows that vaccines that were used to eradicate smallpox are up to 85% effective against monkeypox, according to the World Health Organisation.

“Those who have required the vaccine have been offered it,” the UKHSA spokesperson added, without disclosing specifics on how many people have been vaccinated so far.

SEE ALSO: Italy Reports First Case Of Monkeypox Infection, Australia Reports First Case

Some countries have large stockpiles of the smallpox vaccine as part of pandemic preparedness, including the United States.

Copenhagen-based drugmaker Bavarian Nordic BAVA.CO on Thursday said it had secured a contract with an undisclosed European country to supply its smallpox vaccine, Imvanex, in response to the monkeypox outbreak.

CASES

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

Since then, Portugal has logged 14 cases, and Spain has confirmed seven cases. The United States and Sweden have also reported one case each. Italian authorities have confirmed one case, and suspect two more. 

Several monkeypox outbreaks in Africa have been contained during the COVID pandemic while the world’s attention was elsewhere, Africa’s top public health agency said on Thursday.

“We are however concerned at the multiple countries outside, especially in Europe, that are seeing these outbreaks of monkeypox,” the acting director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, Ahmed Ogwell Ouma, said.

“It would be very useful for knowledge to be shared regarding what the source of these outbreaks actually are,” he said. 

Meanwhile, in Britain, the UKHSA has highlighted that the recent cases in the country were predominantly among men who self-identified as gay, bisexual or men who have sex with men.

This unusual spike in cases outside of Africa could suggest a novel means of spread or a change in the virus, said Anne Rimoin, an epidemiology professor at UCLA in California. “But this is all to be determined”.

“This isn’t going to cause a nationwide epidemic like COVID did,” cautioned Jimmy Whitworth, professor of international public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

“But it’s a serious outbreak of a serious disease – and we should take it seriously.”

(Reporting by Jennifer Rigby and Natalie Grover in London; Twitter @NatalieGrover; additional reporting by Anna Ringstrom in Stockholm and Agnieszka Flak in Milan; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

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