European health official warns monkeypox cases could ‘accelerate’

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LONDON: A senior European health official warned on Friday that cases of the rare monkeypox virus could increase in the coming months as the virus spread to at least eight European countries.

WHO Regional Director for Europe Hans Kluge said that “as we enter the summer season … with mass gatherings, festivals and parties, I am concerned that transmission may accelerate.”

The virus, which causes characteristic pustules but is rarely fatal, has previously been observed in central and western Africa. But cases have been identified in recent weeks in European countries, including Portugal and Sweden, as well as the US, Canada and Australia, Kluge said, calling the spread “unusual”.

“All but one of the recent cases have no relevant history of travel to areas where monkeypox is endemic,” he added. A health spokesman warned that transmission could be exacerbated by the fact that “the cases currently being identified are in those who are sexually active” and many do not recognize the symptoms.
Most of the initial cases were among men who have sex with men seeking treatment at sexual health clinics, Kluge said, adding that “this suggests transmission may have continued for some time.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) said it was investigating the fact that many reported cases involved people who identified themselves as gay, bisexual or men who have sex with men. The official’s announcement came as France, Belgium and Germany reported their first cases of monkeypox, and Italy confirmed it now has three linked cases.

French authorities said the virus infected a 29-year-old man who lived in an area that includes Paris, while Belgium said it had confirmed two cases, including a man in the Flemish region of Brabant.
UK health officials reported 11 more confirmed cases in England on Friday, bringing the total to 20. UK Health Security Agency Chief Medical Adviser Susan Hopkins said she was hopeful “this rise will continue in the coming days and that there will be more cases have been identified. in the wider community.”

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