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Eight suspected monkeypox cases detected in Spain 

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Eight suspected monkeypox cases detected in Spain 
Monkeypox is a rare viral infection that’s endemic to West and Central Africa, and unlike human smallpox, it hasn’t been eradicated. Photo: WHO

Spanish health authorities have warned that eight suspected cases of a virus similar to the eradicated smallpox have been detected in Spain in recent days, a day after the WHO alerted of more cases of this disease in the UK and Portugal.

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Spain’s Health Ministry has warned regional health authorities of the appearance of eight suspected monkeypox cases, referred to as viruela de mono in Spanish.

Madrid’s General Directorate of Public Health sounded the alarm initially after identifying these eight possible cases that "are currently under study in coordination with Spain’s National Centre of Microbiology, which have the necessary techniques to confirm or rule out the diagnosis".

“It’s unlikely that there will be a lot of transmission, but we can’t rule it out,” Spain’s health emergencies director Fernando Simón told journalists on Wednesday.

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"It spreads from monkeys to humans, since there is very little transmission between people.

"Until a few years ago outbreaks did not lead to more than a second generation of transmission, but in recent times up to third and fourth generations have been detected".

Spain’s announcement follows the news in recent days that seven monkeypox cases have been detected in the United Kingdom along with five confirmed cases in Portugal (20 more suspected).

Monkeypox is a rare viral infection that’s endemic to West and Central Africa, and unlike human smallpox, it hasn’t been eradicated. 

Its symptoms are similar but somewhat milder than smallpox’s: fever, headache, muscle aches, back pain, chills, exhaustion, although it also causes the lymph nodes to swell up.

Within one to three days, the patient develops a rash, often beginning on the face then spreading to other parts of the body. Although most monkeypox cases aren’t serious, studies have shown that one in ten people who contract the disease in Africa die from it.

British authorities have pointed out that the last four identified cases have been detected in men who defined themselves as gay, bisexual or as having had sex with men, with suspicions that there may be community transmission of the pathogen in this group.

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“On May 7th 2022, WHO was informed of a confirmed case of monkeypox in an individual who travelled from the United Kingdom to Nigeria and subsequently returned to the United Kingdom, the WHO reported. 

“Since the case was immediately isolated and contact tracing was performed, the risk of onward transmission related to this case in the United Kingdom is minimal.

“However, as the source of infection in Nigeria is not known, there remains a risk of ongoing transmission in this country.”

Are Spain’s monkeypox cases a cause for concern?

Not at this point, but any disease found in animals that is passed on to people has the potential to cause a new pandemic, something the world certainly doesn’t need after two years of Covid-19, and the risk increases if the virus mutates to become more lethal or infectious. 

Monkeypox doesn’t have a specific treatment or inoculation but the human smallpox vaccine does give immunity to monkeypox sufferers and can serve as a treatment if administered soon after exposure.

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