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Wednesday, June 29, 2022

African scientists baffled by monkeypox cases in Europe, America

LONDON – Scientists tracking several outbreaks of monkeypox in Africa say they are baffled by the recent spread of the disease to Europe and North America.

Cases of smallpox-related disease have previously been observed only in people from Central and West Africa. But over the past week, Britain, Spain, Portugal, Italy, the US, Sweden and Canada all reported infections, mostly among young men who had not previously traveled to Africa.

France, Germany, Belgium and Australia confirmed their first cases of monkeypox on Friday.

“I am shocked by this. Every day I wake up more countries are infected,” said Oyewale Tomori, a virologist who formerly headed the Nigerian Academy of Sciences and who sits on several World Health Organization advisory boards.

“It’s not the kind of spread we’ve seen in West Africa, so there could be something new in the West,” he said.

Monkeypox usually causes fever, chills, rash, and sores on the face or genitals. The WHO estimates that the disease is fatal to one in 10 people, but smallpox vaccines are protective and some antiviral drugs are also being developed.

One of the theories British health officials are exploring is whether the disease is being transmitted sexually. Health officials have asked doctors and nurses to be on the alert for possible cases, but said the risk to the general population is low.

The WHO said Nigeria reports about 3,000 monkeypox cases a year. Tomori said outbreaks usually occur in rural areas, where people have close contact with infected rats and squirrels. He said that many cases are likely to be dropped.

Tomori hoped that as cases of monkeypox were reported across Europe and other countries, scientific understanding of the disease would be further enhanced.

The WHO’s lead on emergency response, Dr. Ibrahima Sous Fall, acknowledged this week that there were still “a lot of unknowns in terms of transmission dynamics, clinical characteristics (and) epidemiology.”

On Friday, Britain’s Health Protection Agency reported 11 new monkeypox cases, saying a “significant proportion” of the most recent infections in the UK and Europe have been among young people with no history of travel to Africa. gay, bisexual, or had sex. with men.

Authorities in Spain and Portugal also said their cases were among young men who mostly had sex with other men and said those cases had been raised when men came to sexual health clinics with sores.

Experts have stressed that they do not know whether the disease is being spread through sex or other close contact related to sex.

Nigeria has not seen sexual transmission, Tomori said, but he noted that viruses that were not initially known to transmit through sex, such as Ebola, later showed different patterns of outbreaks of major epidemics. were proven to do so.

The same may be true of monkeypox, Tomori said.

In Germany, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said the government was confident the outbreak could be controlled. He said the virus is being sequenced to see if there are any genetic changes that could make it more contagious.

Infectious diseases professor Rolf Gustafsson told Swedish broadcaster SVT it was “very difficult” to imagine the situation could get worse.

“We will certainly find some more cases in Sweden, but I don’t think there will be an epidemic by any means,” Gustafsson said. “There is currently nothing to suggest this.”

Scientists said it is possible that the first patient in the outbreak caught the disease while in Africa, but what is happening now is extraordinary.

World Nation News Desk
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