One Year of Monkeypox in Europe

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Monkeypox is hardly an issue one year after the start of a significant outbreak – but the World Health Organization (WHO) still considers the pathogen to be one of the three most dangerous groups of viruses from the animal world. They should be constantly monitored. “We could have a virus variant in three years that is significantly less containable – that’s a real risk,” WHO monkeypox expert Rosamund Lewis said ahead of the striking deadline.
Exactly one year ago, a scary new disease emerged in Europe: Monkeypox, now called Mpox. Fears ran rampant: Was a new wave of disease coming to the world just as the devastating coronavirus pandemic was winding down? The United Kingdom reported the first case to WHO on May 7, 2022, and most newly affected countries have since brought the outbreaks back under control.

The other two virus groups WHO closely monitors are avian flu-causing influenza viruses and viral diseases transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes, including dengue fever, yellow fever, Zika and chikungunya.

The Mpox virus, known virtually only from a few African countries, suddenly spread on a larger scale from person to person in other countries in 2022. More than 87,000 Mpox cases have been reported to WHO from 111 countries – including Austria – since the beginning of 2022 (as of April 25), including 130 deaths. A public health emergency, a “public health emergency of international concern” (PHEIC), is in effect. That’s the highest alert the WHO can declare.

“It is worrying that it has moved out of its ecological niche in Central and West Africa,” WHO Department of Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Director Sylvie Briand said in Geneva. “The virus could change, become more contagious or infect a vulnerable population that has been spared so far,” such as pregnant women or young children. “The disease could take a much more severe course in these groups.” So far, the current outbreak has primarily affected men who have sex with men. In principle, however, anyone can become infected during close physical contact.

Germany was among the ten countries with the highest reported cases, behind the United States with more than 30,000 cases, Brazil, Spain, France, Colombia, Mexico, Peru and the United Kingdom. This says only a limited amount about prevalence. Not all countries have sound surveillance systems. In African countries, in particular, there are limited testing facilities, according to WHO data.

In Austria, 328 cases of the notifiable disease have been registered since May 23, 2022, according to AGES (Agency for Health and Food Safety) (as of April 28, 2023). It said a Mpox infection reported on April 7 was the first in 2023.

Three vaccines significantly reduce the risk of infection. In Austria, AGES said that Imvanex and the U.S. vaccine Jynneos, with U.S. FDA approval against Mpox, are available in limited quantities.

Mpox infection is transmitted among people through close physical contact. It usually brings fever, headache, muscle pain, and a skin rash with pimples. The virus is thought to have originated in small mammals such as sun or chipmunks, or giant hamster rats. Mpox is related to the classic human smallpox viruses that had raged for centuries and were eradicated in the 1980s.

  • source: k.at/picture: pixabay.com
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