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Monkeypox cases are ‘tip of the iceberg’, says WHO

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L’World Health Organization (WHO) warned Friday, May 27 that the approximately 200 cases of monkeypox detected in recent weeks, in countries where the virus does not usually circulate, could be only “the tip of the iceberg”. “. “We don’t know if we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg,” said Sylvie Briand, director of the WHO’s global infectious risk preparedness department, during a presentation to the organization’s member states on the “unusual” spread of the virus, on the occasion of the World Health Assembly in Geneva (Switzerland).

Experts are trying to determine what caused this “unusual situation”, and preliminary results show no variation or mutation of the monkeypox virus, said the WHO specialist. “We have a window of opportunity to stop the transmission now,” she said. If we put the right measures in place now, we can probably contain this quickly. »

The UK reported a first case on May 7. Since then, some 200 cases have been detected in countries far removed from those where the virus is endemic. According to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), precisely 219 cases – but no deaths – had been reported as of Wednesday. Endemic in 11 countries in Central and West Africa, monkeypox has suddenly been detected in more than 20 other countries around the world, including the United States, Australia, the United Arab Emirates. The Spanish Ministry of Health listed 98 confirmed cases on Friday, the United Kingdom 90 and Portugal 74. In the latter country, all the cases are men, most aged under 40.

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Monkey pox: “This circulation of the disease is completely new”

A disease without treatment

“We are currently at the very beginning of this event,” explained Sylvie Briand. “We know we will have more cases in the days to come,” but “this is not a disease that the general public should be worried about. It’s not Covid or other fast-spreading diseases.” Monkeypox belongs to the same family as smallpox, which killed millions of people around the world every year until it was eradicated in 1980.

However, monkeypox is much less serious, with a mortality rate of 3 to 6%. Most patients recover after three to four weeks. The main symptoms are high fever, swollen glands and skin rashes. Several cases involve homosexuals, but experts point out that there is no evidence that the disease was sexually transmitted. Scientists believe that the disease was rather transmitted by close contact with an infected person with lesions on the skin.

There isn’t really a cure, but antivirals have been developed against smallpox, one of which was recently approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), according to the WHO expert. Smallpox vaccines are found to be 85% effective against monkeypox. But most people under 45 have not been vaccinated against smallpox and vaccine stocks are now very low.

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Monkey pox: what virologists say

First vaccinations of contact cases in France

The first two people, considered to have had risky contact with a monkey pox patient, were vaccinated on Friday in Paris, at the Bichat hospital, we learned from the Directorate General of Health. In accordance with the opinion of the High Authority for Health (HAS) issued on Tuesday, “it is a very targeted vaccination which is offered to people who have had a contact considered to be at risk”, it was indicated.

The first vaccinated, a man in his thirties and residing in Paris, who wished to remain anonymous, told AFP that he was the contact case of the first confirmed patient in France on May 20. “I saw him on May 14 in the afternoon in an apartment in Paris. I did not have sex with this person, but I was in prolonged (physical) contact with this person, for three hours, in the same space,” he told AFP. “My case was discussed because I was not exposed through sexual intercourse, which does not make me a red case but rather an orange case,” he explained.

France currently has seven “proven” cases of monkeypox, the new Minister of Health, Brigitte Bourguignon, said on Wednesday, adding that the country had the necessary stocks of smallpox vaccine to vaccinate contact cases. The incubation period for monkeypox is most often between 6 and 16 days, which can range from 5 to 21 days.


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