Monkey pox: the risk of an epidemic is “very low”

Rise in confirmed cases, search for contact cases, quarantine… this vocabulary, to which the Covid crisis has familiarized us, has been applied for a few days to another virus: monkey pox . Its spread in the West since May 7, the date of confirmation of a first case in the United Kingdom, has aroused increased vigilance by health authorities.

These are meant to be reassuring. “The virus is not easily transmitted,” the European Center for Disease Control (ECDC) said in its waypoint released on Monday. The agency considers the risk of contagion to be “very low” in the general population. “It’s a situation that can be controlled,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, in charge of the fight against emerging diseases and zoonoses at the World Health Organization (WHO).

Generally mild symptoms

Known for fifty years, the monkeypox virus (MPXV), a less dangerous cousin of smallpox eradicated forty years ago, is normally present in Central and West Africa. In the West, if the disease has already been reported, these were imported cases. The spread of the virus there is unusual.

According to Maria Van Kerkhove, there are currently “less than 200 confirmed and suspected cases” in Europe, North America and Australia. According to the latest figures published on Saturday by the WHO, twelve countries are concerned, in particular the United Kingdom, Portugal and Spain, but also the France since Friday . A handful of other countries have since announced that they have identified a case on their territory.

Symptoms of the virus, which belongs to the orthopoxvirus family, are usually mild: cough, fever, muscle aches, fatigue and swollen glands, followed by development of a rash that often starts on the face and may spread to the hands , feet and genitals. Cases may be more severe among children, pregnant women, and immunocompromised people. For people at risk, vaccination against smallpox can be considered if they are in close contact with sick people, notes the ECDC.

Quarantine in Belgium

Because monkeypox is transmitted by “close contact”, in particular contact with infected mucous membranes or wounds or even large droplets during prolonged face-to-face contact. “The predominance, in the current epidemic outbreak, of cases among men who have sex with men, and the nature of the lesions presented in some cases suggest that the transmission took place during sexual intercourse”, underlines the ECDC, which considers that the risk of contagion is “high” in people with several sexual partners.

The UNAIDS agency also warned on Sunday against the stigmatization of homosexuals which, like the fight against AIDS, “undermines confidence and the ability to respond effectively to epidemics like this”.

In France, as in the other affected countries, the authorities are carrying out a “thorough search” for new patients and contact cases. Belgium was the first country to announce a 21-day quarantine for those infected on Friday. US President Joe Biden, for his part, warned on Sunday that the impact of the spread of the virus could be “significant”.

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Monkey pox: the risk of an epidemic is “very low”

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