While it is conceivable that the disease was first spread in Africa, scientists believe that what is occurring now is unprecedented. African scientists are baffled by monkeypox cases in Europe and the US.
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Scientists who have been tracking monkeypox outbreaks in Africa believe the disease’s current spread in Europe and North America is perplexing, reports The Hill.
Previously, instances of the smallpox-related sickness were only seen in people with ties to Central and West Africa. However, infections have been detected in the United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal, Italy, the United States, Sweden, and Canada in the last week, largely in young males who have never visited into Africa.
According to the World Health Organization, there are around 80 recorded incidents and 50 additional suspected cases globally. The first instances were reported in France, Germany, Belgium, and Australia on Friday.
“I’m stunned by this. Every day I wake up and there are more countries infected,” said Oyewale Tomori, a virologist who previously served as the president of the Nigerian Academy of Science and now serves on various WHO advisory committees.
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“This is not the kind of spread we’ve seen in West Africa, so there may be something new happening in the West,” he said.
So far, no one has died as a result of the outbreak. Fever, chills, rash, and lesions on the face or genitals are common symptoms of monkeypox. The disease kills up to one in ten people, according to the WHO, but smallpox vaccinations and antiviral medications are being developed.
Officials in the United Kingdom are investigating if the disease is spread sexually. Doctors and nurses have been warned to be on the lookout for possible cases, although officials say the danger to the general public is negligible. All suspected cases should be isolated, and high-risk contacts should be administered smallpox immunization, according to the European Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to the WHO, Nigeria has roughly 3,000 cases of monkeypox each year. Outbreaks are most common in rural areas, where people are in close proximity to diseased rats and squirrels, according to Tomori. He believes that many cases go unnoticed.
No Nigerian connections of the British patients have developed symptoms, according to Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa, head of the country’s Center for Disease Control, and investigations are ongoing.
Dr. Hans Kluge, Who is Europe director, described the epidemic as “atypical,” claiming that the disease’s emergence in so many nations across the continent indicated “transmission has been ongoing for some time.” He claims that the majority of European instances are minor.
On Friday, the UK’s Health Security Agency revealed 11 additional monkeypox cases, claiming “a notable proportion” of the illnesses in the UK and Europe were in young men who were gay, bisexual, or had sex with men and had no record of travel to Africa.
Authorities in Spain and Portugal stated their cases included young males who had sex with other guys, and that the cases were discovered when the men showed up at sexual health clinics with lesions.
Experts have stated that they do not know if the disease is transferred through sex or other intimate contact.
Sexual transmission has not been observed in Nigeria, according to Tomori, but viruses that were not previously known to transmit by sex, such as Ebola, were later proved to do so after larger outbreaks revealed distinct patterns of distribution.
The same might be said of monkeypox, according to Tomori.
In Germany, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach expressed confidence in the government’s ability to limit the outbreak. He explained that the virus was being sequenced to discover whether any genetic modifications had made it more virulent.
Infectious diseases professor Rolf Gustafson told Swedish TV SVT that it was “very difficult” to see the situation getting worse.
“We will certainly find some further cases in Sweden, but I do not think there will be an epidemic in any way,” Gustafson said. “There is nothing to suggest that at present.”
While it is conceivable that the disease was first spread in Africa, scientists believe that what is occurring now is unprecedented.
“We’ve never seen anything like what’s happening in Europe,” said Christian Happi, director of the African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases.
Happi further suggested that the halting of smallpox vaccination campaigns after the illness was declared eradicated in 1980 may have contributed to the spread of monkeypox. Smallpox immunizations also defend against monkeypox, but widespread vaccination has been discontinued for decades.
“Aside from people in west and Central Africa who may have some immunity to monkeypox from past exposure, not having any smallpox vaccination means nobody has any kind of immunity to monkeypox,” Happi said.
A careful examination of the outbreak in Europe, including pinpointing who the initial patients were, is now important, according to Shabir Mahdi, a professor of vaccinology at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.
“We need to really understand how this first started and why the virus is now gaining traction,” he said. “In Africa, there have been very controlled and infrequent outbreaks of monkeypox. If that’s now changing, we really need to understand why.”