Monkeypox has been reported in 14 countries. Is there a risk of a new pandemic?

  • Joseph Lee
  • BBC News

Monkeypox virus seen under an electron microscope

Author of the photo, Science Photo Library

Israel and Switzerland have added to the list of countries where monkeypox cases have been reported, bringing the total number of countries where outbreaks have been reported to 14.

Both countries said they had identified one infected person who had recently traveled, but Israel added that other possible cases were being investigated.

More than 80 cases have already been confirmed in new outbreaks in Europe, the United States, Canada and Australia.

No cases of monkeypox have been reported in Ukraine, the Ministry of Health said.

Smallpox is most common in remote areas of Central and West Africa.

The outbreak has taken scientists by surprise, but the disease does not tend to spread easily among humans, so it is believed that the risk to the general public is low.

According to the British National Health Service, the disease is usually mild and most people recover within a few weeks.

The World Health Organization said it was investigating another 50 possible cases – without naming countries – and warned that more people were likely to be confirmed.

During a visit to South Korea, US President Joe Biden, commenting on the spread of the virus, said the United States was “working hard” to address the issue, including considering the possible use of vaccines.

After the outbreak was first detected in the UK, the virus began to be detected across Europe – Spain, Portugal, Germany, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Italy and Sweden.

The British Health Agency has so far identified 20 cases, and its chief medical adviser, Dr Susan Hopkins, told the BBC’s Sunday Morning program that more and more cases are being detected every day.

Photo by Getty Images

Caption to the photo,

Symptoms of monkeypox include rash, fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion

Although there is no specific monkey vaccine, several countries have said they stockpile smallpox vaccines, which are about 85% effective in preventing infection because the two viruses are very similar.

On Friday, the WHO said the latest outbreaks were unexpected because they occurred in countries where the disease is not endemic.

It is not yet clear why this is happening.

One possible option is that the virus has mutated in some way, although there is currently little evidence to suggest that it is a new strain.

Another option – the virus was in favorable conditions for reproduction and spread.

Also, monkeypox can now spread more easily than in the past, when the smallpox vaccine was widely used.

WHO Regional Director for Europe Hans Kluge has warned that the spread could accelerate in the summer as people gather for festivals and parties.

In addition to European cases, one case was confirmed in Australia – in a man who traveled to Britain.

In North America, the Massachusetts Department of Health reported that one person who had recently traveled to Canada tested positive for the virus.

The Canadian Health Agency said it had identified two cases in Quebec, but did not say whether the American traveler was infected before or during his visit to Montreal.

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