A host of countries including France, Germany, Belgium and Australia on Friday began to report their first infections of monkeypox—a virus usually limited to certain regions in Africa—a day after the New York City Health Department said it was investigating a potential case in the city.
The new infections—which are usually found in parts of Central and Western Africa, but are rare elsewhere in the world—come after Spain, Portugal, Italy and Sweden this week all reported their first monkeypox cases in the current outbreak, many of which were not linked to travel to Africa.
The New York City Health Department said it was conducting tests to confirm a possible infection in a patient at Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan just a day after the U.S. confirmed its first and only case of monkeypox this year in Massachusetts.
Authorities have confirmed more than 70 cases total across Europe, the U.S., Canada and Australia to date, according to data compiled by researchers at the University of Oxford and Harvard Medical School.
Authorities have not reported any deaths as a result of the latest outbreak, and experts say the virus is usually mild and goes away on its own within a month.
The most recent Western outbreak started at least a few weeks ago, Maria Van Kerkhove, who leads the emerging diseases and zoonoses unit in the World Health Organization’s Health Emergencies Program, told STAT News this week. Early signs of monkeypox include fever, muscle aches, headache and chills. The virus can also lead to a rash that looks like chickenpox or syphilis. The rise in cases not linked to travel to Africa has led officials to believe transmission of the virus is occurring in the community. Though the virus is not known to be sexually transmitted, most of the cases have been found among gay and bisexual men or men who have sex with men, but Van Kerkhove warned against fixating on this transmission route. The monkeypox virus does not typically spread easily between humans: it can be spread through close contact with an infected animal, person or materials contaminated with the virus.
The exact impact of the monkeypox virus is unknown, according to the WHO. Since 1970, authorities have confirmed monkeypox cases in humans in 11 African countries, including Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone and Cameroon. Nigeria continues to report cases in a large outbreak that started in 2017, with more than 500 suspected infections and a virus fatality rate of 3%, according to the WHO.
What To Watch For
A WHO response to the outbreak. The U.K’s Telegraph reported the health organization was convening leading experts on Friday to discuss the rise in cases, including how the virus is spread. A spokesperson for the WHO told Forbes the organization is convening a “number of meetings related to monkeypox on a daily basis” with experts, including a meeting with the WHO Strategic and Technical Advisory Group on Infectious Hazards with Pandemic and Endemic Potential on Friday.
Monkeypox: Here’s What You Need To Know About The Rare Virus Found In The U.S., U.K. And Europe (Forbes)
First U.S. Monkeypox Case Of 2022 Reported In Massachusetts (Forbes)