Several dozen suspected or confirmed cases of monkeypox have been detected since early May in Europe and North America, raising fears of the start of the spread of this endemic disease in West Africa. The United Kingdom, which first reported cases, detected from May 6, said in a statement Wednesday evening that it had identified two new ones, bringing the total number of people infected to nine.
With the exception of the first infected individual, who had recently traveled to Nigeria, these patients were infected in the United Kingdom, according to the British health security agency (UKHSA). "These latest cases, together with reports of cases in various European countries, confirm what we initially feared that there may be transmission of monkeypox within our communities," explained the Dr Susan Hopkins, UKHSA's chief medical adviser, was quoted in the statement.
Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, back pain, swollen lymph nodes, chills and fatigue. Rashes may occur, often on the face, and spread to other parts of the body including the genitals. There is no treatment for monkeypox, which is spread by contact with an infected person or their body fluids, including saliva. This viral infection heals itself.
Not contagious between humans
On Wednesday, Spain, Portugal, Canada and the United States, in turn, reported having spotted the presence of monkeypox, or what appears to be, on their territory. The two countries on the Iberian Peninsula have reported having identified around 40 suspected or confirmed cases of this disease, which has led the Spanish and Portuguese authorities to issue a national health alert.
In Canada, more than a dozen suspected cases were being examined in Montreal on Wednesday, according to the public channel Radio-Canada, which quotes the city's health authorities. And in the United States, a man who had recently traveled to Canada tested positive for this disease in the state of Massachusetts. The authorities want to be generally reassuring, thus emphasizing in Spain and Portugal that the disease is not very contagious between humans.
Transmission through sexual relations
However, the increase in apparent outbreaks is worrying, and the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday that it was taking a close interest in the fact that some of the cases in the United Kingdom appear to have been transmitted within the homosexual community.
"We are seeing transmissions among men who have sex with men," which is "new information that we need to study properly to better understand the dynamics" of transmission, said Ibrahima Socé Fall, deputy director general of the Emergency Response Center in Geneva.
But "anyone, regardless of sexual orientation, can spread monkeypox," the United States' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the country's main federal health agency, said.