After over 100 cases were confirmed or suspected in Europe, the World Health Organization (WHO) called an emergency meeting on Friday, May 21st, to review the recent outbreak of monkeypox, a viral infection more common in west and central Africa.
Cases have been confirmed in at least nine countries, including Germany, Belgium, Portugal, France, Italy, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Spain, and Sweden, as well as the United States, Canada, and Australia, in what Germany has termed as Europe’s largest outbreak ever.
On Friday, Spain reported 24 new cases, mostly in the Madrid region, where the regional authorities shut down a sauna that was related to the majority of the infections.
A man in his 30s was being treated in an Israeli hospital after just arriving from Western Europe and showing symptoms consistent with the disease.
The disease, which was first discovered in monkeys, is spread through close contact and has only recently expanded outside of Africa, so this cluster of cases has caused concern.
However, because the virus does not spread as easily as SARS-COV-2, scientists do not expect the outbreak to turn into a pandemic resembling COVID-19.
Monkeypox is typically a mild viral infection characterized by fever and a distinctive bumpy rash.
A senior US government official stated, “There appears to be a low risk to the public at this time.”
The WHO’s European chief expressed concern that infection could spread faster in the region when people gather for summer celebrations and festivals.
Although there is no specific vaccine for monkeypox, the WHO reports that vaccines used to eradicate smallpox are up to 85% effective against monkeypox.
On May 7, the first European case was confirmed in a person who had returned to England from Nigeria.