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131 confirmed cases of monkeypox reported in 19 countries

Published on 24/05/22 at 09:53am

UK officials have warned that monkeypox could turn into a Europe-wide endemic if pets catch the virus. This could also make the virus a permanent resident of the UK. 57 cases have now been recorded in the country, with a total of 131 confirmed in 19 countries so far, and 106 further suspected cases.

Cases in the UK have almost tripled in three days. A rapid risk assessment published by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) shared that pet rodents including rats and mice should be isolated if they belong to close contacts of infected people. As yet, no pets are known to have been infected. The ECDC has warned that it is however important to “manage exposed pets, and prevent the disease from being transmitted to wildlife.”

Where the disease is endemic, the virus is often carried by rodents including squirrels and dormice. “Such a spill-over event could potentially lead to the virus establishing in European wildlife, and the disease becoming an endemic zoonosis. The probability of this spill-over event is very low,” the ECDC warned.

While the outbreak is unusual, WHO have emphasised that it remains “containable”, and that the organisation is to convene further meetings supporting member states with more advice on how to tackle the outbreak of the virus.

Slovenia has reported its first case of monkeypox infection, as the virus has been reported in Europe, the Americas, and Australia. WHO’s emerging disease lead, Maria Van Kerkhove shared at a news conference that “We want to stop human-to-human transmission. We can do this in the non-endemic countries,” emphasising the virus had been transmitted via skin-to-skin contact, and that most of those identified carried a mild form of the disease.

Rosamund Lewis, who heads WHO’s smallpox secretariat, underlined that viruses in this group “tend not to mutate, and they tend to be fairly stable”.

Ana Ovey

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