Cases of smallpox in Britain have prompted authorities to vaccinate several health workers and others who may have been exposed to the smallpox.
Monkeypox is a usually mild viral disease, characterized by symptoms of fever, as well as a rash with specific swellings. There are two main strains: the Congo strain, which is more severe – with a mortality of up to 10% – and the West African strain, which has a mortality rate of about 1%.
First identified in monkeys, the disease usually spreads through close contact and occurs mostly in West and Central Africa. It has rarely spread elsewhere, so this new wave of cases outside the continent has sparked concern, Reuters notes. So far, 9 cases of West African strains have been reported in the United Kingdom.
The monkey’s smallpox causes the UK to vaccinate those exposed to the infection, although there is only one general vaccine for it.
There is no specific vaccine for monkeypox, but a smallpox vaccine provides some protection, said a spokesman for the UK Health Agency (UKHSA). The data show that vaccines that have been used to eradicate smallpox are up to 85% effective against monkeypox, according to the World Health Organization, according to alephnews.ro.
“Those who needed the vaccine were given the serum,” said the UKHSA spokesman, without giving details of how many people have been vaccinated so far. Some countries have large stocks of smallpox vaccine as part of pandemic preparedness, including the United States.
Copenhagen-based drugmaker Bavarian Nordic said on Thursday it had secured a contract with an undisclosed European country to supply its smallpox vaccine, Imvanex, in response to the monkeypox epidemic.
The first European case was confirmed on May 7 to a person who returned to England from Nigeria, where monkeypox is endemic. Since then, Portugal has registered 14 cases and Spain has confirmed 7 cases. The United States and Sweden also reported one case each. Italian authorities have confirmed one case and suspect two more.
Meanwhile, in the UK, the UKHSA pointed out that recent cases were predominant among men who identified themselves as gay or bisexual.
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