MADRID – The Spanish Ministry of Health and the Autonomous Communities has activated the health warning for monkeypox, a very rare disease caused by a virus endemic to Central and West Africa.
The history of this health warning began with the discovery on May 18 of 8 probable cases in Madrid. However, pending confirmation, that number rose to 23 cases that same day. Then, by mid-morning on May 19, the Ministry of Health reported that the Community of Madrid had 7 confirmed cases. But also a further 24 suspected cases of monkeypox pending confirmation tests. Health Minister Enrique Ruiz Escudero is confident that more cases will appear.
The individuals studied are progressing positively and are isolated in their homes. However, close monitoring should be carried out if they need to be hospitalised.
The cases undergo genetic testing, which is conducted at the National Centre for Microbiology. According to Ministry of Health sources, these first possible cases are progressing well, although the pathology may require hospitalisation.
Airway transmission and physical contact
In general, the transmission of this disease occurs through the respiratory tract. But the features of the suspected cases suggest that transmission is due to contact with mucous membranes during sexual intercourse, the ministry said in a statement.
Very rare disease
Monkeypox is a very rare disease, generally presenting with fever, muscle aches, and lymphadenopathy (swollen glands). Also with a rash on the hands and face, which is similar to chickenpox.
Role of the smallpox vaccine in the transmission is being evaluated
The General Directorate of Public Health is awaiting the results of the laboratory tests. It is also evaluating the role of the smallpox vaccine in controlling transmission, and the use of antivirals if necessary. Furthermore, it conducts epidemiological studies on those affected and identifies possible contacts.
More information to follow after solid research
“We are working with all possible hypotheses. Furthermore, when we have some more solid information it will be explained and the necessary data gave,” he told journalists at an event in Valencia.
In general, transmission between humans is very low
Monkeypox is a disease transmitted from monkeys to humans and generally has a very low transmission rate between humans. But in recent outbreaks, up to the third and fourth generations of contamination have been detected. The experts must identify the cases in the UK and Portugal and see if they are confirmed in Spain. Then they must look at how they are evolving.
First cases discovered in Europe
The first cases in Europe were reported last Sunday by the United Kingdom. The UK reported 4 confirmed cases with no history of travel to risk areas.
Two days later, on the 17th, Portugal confirmed three cases in Lisbon. Furthermore 2 cases are pending confirmation, and 15 other cases are under investigation.
Thereafter, the European Commission’s Early Warning and Response System on Communicable Diseases communicated this warning, as reported by the Ministry of Health, which is in permanent contact with the European Alert System for global monitoring.
“Moderately benign disease”
Higher Council of Scientific Research (CSIC) researcher Margarita del Val has pointed out that it is a “fairly benign” disease, but it causes “very large and noticeable lesions” on the skin.
“What you need to do is locate the origin and the transmission and stop it as soon as possible,” Del Val told journalists at the first international summit on pandemic management, organised by the city council of Valencia.
“We must be vigilant
For his part, Jacob Lorenzo-Morales, director of the Institute of Tropical Diseases of the Canary Islands, told the SMC Spain: “Monkeypox is unlikely to cause significant transmission, but we must be vigilant, therefore a warning has been issued he stated.
Monkeypox is a rare viral zoonosis: the first human cases were diagnosed in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the number has increased over the past decade in West and Central African countries.
Outside the African continent, cases of human infections have been documented in several countries such as the US, UK, Israel, and Singapore, always associated with an imported case or contact with imported animals.
Not particularly contagious among humans
This zoonotic disease is not considered particularly contagious among humans. The first clinical picture usually includes fever, headache, myalgia, lymphadenopathy, and fatigue. A few days after the onset of a fever, a rash develops, often starting on the face and then spreading to other parts of the body. It is usually a self-limiting illness and most people recover within a few weeks, although the serious illness can occur in some cases.
Also read: Monkeypox in Madrid