In an interview with The Associated Press, Dr. David Heymann, former director of the WHO emergency department, said the The main theory to explain the spread of the disease is sexual transmission during two parties organized in Spain and Belgium. The disease has not caused major epidemics in the past outside of Africa, where it is endemic in animals.
“We know that smallpox can spread when there is close contact with the lesions of an infected person, and now it looks like the sexual contact amplified this transmission”Heyman noted.
This is a significant change from the usual pattern of virus transmission in central and western Africa, where people are mainly infected by animals such as primates and wild rodents, and outbreaks have not spread through the borders. WHO has so far recorded more than 90 cases of smallpox in a dozen countries, including Britain, Spain, Israel, France, Switzerland, the United States and Australia.
Health authorities in Madrid noted that the Spanish capital has registered 30 confirmed cases so far. The regional councilor for health, Enrique Ruiz Escudero, indicated that possible links were being studied between a recent Pride event in the Canary Islands attended by 80,000 people and a sauna in Madrid.
Heymann on Friday chaired an urgent meeting of the WHO advisory committee on threats of infectious diseases to assess the outbreak, noting that there is no evidence to suggest the virus may have mutated into a more infectious form.
Monkeypox usually causes fever, chills, rash and lesions on the face or genitals. It can be extended by close contact with an infected person, their clothing or bedding, although sexual transmission has not been documented to date. Most people recover from the disease within a few weeks without needing to be hospitalized.
Vaccines against smallpox, a related disease, they are also effective in preventing monkeypox, and antiviral drugs are under development. The disease can be fatal in about 10% of infections, but in current outbreak, no deaths have been reported.
The WHO has declared that the epidemic is “atypical” and said the fact that cases are being seen in so many different countries suggests the disease may have been circulating undetected for some time.. The director of the agency in Europe warned that with the arrival of summer on the continent, mass events, festivals and parties could accelerate its spread.
Other scientists have pointed out that it might be difficult to say whether It is sex itself or the close contact associated with sex that is responsible for recent smallpox infections in Europe.
“By its nature, sexual activity involves intimate contact, something that one I would expect the likelihood of transmission to increase regardless of a person’s sexual orientation and regardless of the mode of transmission.”said Mike Skinner, a virologist at Imperial College London.
UK Social Security Agency chief medical adviser Dr Susan Hopkins said she expected new cases of monkeypox to be identified in the country “every day”.
British authorities have stated that “a notable proportion” of cases in Britain and Europe are young men with no history of travel to Africa who are gay, bisexual or have had sex with men. Authorities in Portugal and Spain also said their patients were men who had mostly had sex with others. men and whose infections were identified when they went to sexual health clinics to seek help for their injuries.
Heymann, who is also a professor of infectious diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said the outbreak is likely a chance event that could be traced to a specific infection.
“It’s very possible that there was someone who got infected, developed lesions on their genitals, hands or elsewhere and then pass it on to others when there has been close sexual or physical contact,” Heyman pointed out. “And then there were these international events that started the epidemic all over the world, in the United States and in other European countries.”
pointed out that it is The disease is unlikely to cause widespread contagion.
“It’s not COVID,” he said. “We have to stop it, but it doesn’t spread through the air and we have vaccines that protect it.” Heymann stressed that studies should be carried out quickly to determine if smallpox could spread to through asymptomatic people and stressed that the population at risk should take precautions to protect themselves.
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