Scientists Baffled By The Spread Of Monkeypox In US & Europe

Fact checked
monkey monkeypox

Scientists who have studied numerous outbreaks of Monkeypox in Africa say they are baffled by the unusual spread of the disease in Europe and North America.

There are about 80 confirmed cases worldwide and 50 more suspected ones, according to the World Health Organization. France, Germany, Belgium and Australia reported their first cases of monkeypox on Friday.

Cases of the disease have not previously been seen among people with no links to Central and West Africa.

Latest Videos

Scientists say that the outbreak’s first patient may have caught the disease while in Africa, but what is happening now is exceptional. “We’ve never seen anything like what’s happening in Europe,” Christian Happi, director of the African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases, said.

Al Jazeera reports: In the past week, the UK, Spain, Portugal, Italy, US, Sweden and Canada all reported infections, mostly in young men who had not previously traveled to Africa.

“I’m stunned by this,” said Oyewale Tomori, a virologist who formerly headed the Nigerian Academy of Science and who sits on several World Health Organization (WHO) advisory boards.

“Every day I wake up and there are more countries infected,” Tomori said.

“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.

Monkeypox typically causes fever, chills, a rash and lesions on the face or genitals. The WHO estimates the disease is fatal for about 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 sexually transmitted. Health officials have asked doctors and nurses to be on alert for potential cases, but said the risk to the general population is low.

Outbreaks in Nigeria, which reports about 3,000 monkeypox cases a year, are usually in rural areas, where people have close contact with infected rats and squirrels, according to Tomori. He said the disease is not spread very easily and that many cases are likely missed.

“Unless the person ends up in an advanced health centre, they don’t attract the attention of the surveillance system,” he said.

Tomori hoped the appearance of monkeypox cases across Europe and other countries would further scientific understanding of the disease.

The WHO’s European chief said he was concerned that monkeypox could spread as people gather for parties and festivals over the summer months.

“As we enter the summer season in the European region, with mass gatherings, festivals and parties, I am concerned that transmission could accelerate, as the cases currently being detected are among those engaging in sexual activity, and the symptoms are unfamiliar to many,” WHO regional director for Europe Hans Kluge said on Friday.