Sun | Nov 27, 2022

African scientists baffled by monkeypox cases in Europe, US

Published:Friday | May 20, 2022 | 9:10 AM
This 1997 image was provided by the CDC during an investigation into an outbreak of monkeypox, which took place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), formerly Zaire, and depicts the dorsal surfaces of the hands of a monkeypox case patient, who was displaying the appearance of the characteristic rash during its recuperative stage. (CDC via AP)

LONDON (AP) — Scientists who have monitored numerous outbreaks of monkeypox in Africa say they are baffled by the disease's recent spread in Europe and North America.

Cases of the smallpox-related disease have previously been seen only among people with links to central and West Africa.

But in the past week, Britain, Spain, Portugal, Italy, US, Sweden and Canada all reported infections, mostly in young men who hadn't previously travelled to Africa.

France, Germany, Belgium and Australia confirmed their first cases of monkeypox on Friday.

“I'm stunned by this. Every day I wake up and there are more countries infected,” said Oyewale Tomori, a virologist who formerly headed the Nigerian Academy of Science and who sits on several World Health Organization advisory boards.

“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.

WHO estimates the disease is fatal for up to 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.

Nigeria reports about 3,000 monkeypox cases a year, WHO said. Outbreaks are usually in rural areas, where people have close contact with infected rats and squirrels, Tomori said. He said many cases are likely missed.

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

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