WHO

Ministry of Health issues warning about monkeypox virus in Spain after eight suspected cases detected

The initial symptoms are similar to chickenpox, but milder. They include fever, headache, muscle pain, back pain, swollen lymph glands, shivering and exhaustion. There may be a rash, which usually starts on the face and then extends to other parts of the body

ÁLVARO SOTO Madrid

Spain's Minister of Health, Carolina Darias, has warned the regional governments to be on the alert for possible cases of monkeypox virus after eight suspected cases were detected in Madrid. The National Microbiology Centre is analysing samples to confirm whether or not they do have this illness, as cases have been recorded in several countries in recent days.

The alarm was raised by the UK two days ago, where seven cases were reported. All of them were men who had had sexual relations with other men, although there was no epidemiological link between them, which points to the existence of different chains of infection. Meanwhile, Portugal has confirmed three cases via PCR testing, has two other suspected cases and 15 others under investigation.

“We believe there could be community transmission of this illness and we are urging homosexual and bisexual men in particular to look out for any unusual rashes or lesions and get in touch with a sexual health service without delay,” explained Susan Hopkins, an advisor to the UK Health Security Agency (UKSHA).

Endemic in Nigeria

The first case was of someone who became infected in Nigeria, where monkeypox virus is endemic, but the others caught it in the UK. In any case, the agency points out that “the virus does not spread between people easily and the risk for the UK population is low”.

According to UKSHA, monkeypox virus is usually associated with people who have visited Western Africa. It is normally a mild and self-limiting illness, caught by very close contact with someone with monkeypox virus, and most people who get it recover within a few weeks.

Symptoms

The initial symptoms are similar to chickenpox, but milder. They include fever, headache, muscle pain, back pain, swollen lymph glands, shivering and exhaustion. There may be a rash, which usually starts on the face and then extends to other parts of the body including the genitals. The rash changes and goes through different stages, and can resemble chickenpox or syphilis, before finally forming a scab which falls off later.

The illness was discovered in 1958 when two outbreaks were detected in colonies of monkeys kept for research purposes, although the first case in humans was notified in August 1970 in Bokenda, a remote village in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The first infections occurred through contact with infected animals and then between humans, where transmission occurred through saliva, respiratory excretions, contact with an oozing wound or scab, and also through faeces. Experts say it is not only transmitted through homosexual relations, as anyone who comes into contact with infected fluids can catch it. They also say that the type which is causing the outbreaks in Europe is milder than the one in central Africa, which is potentially more dangerous.