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HEALTH

Eight suspected monkeypox cases detected in Spain 

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.

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

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.

“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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BREXIT

Reciprocal healthcare agreements between Spain and Gibraltar end

The Spanish government has confirmed that it will not extend its reciprocal healthcare agreements with Gibraltar, meaning that from July 1st 2022, it will come to an end.

Reciprocal healthcare agreements between Spain and Gibraltar end

When the UK left the EU on December 31st 2020, both sides agreed that the UK’s EHIC European healthcare cards could still be used until their expiry dates.

This card provided British travellers with free state-provided medical care in the EU in case of emergencies.

Beyond their five year period of validity, EHIC cards are no longer valid and travellers have to apply for the new Global Heath Insurance Card (GHIC) instead. 

Spain made a separate agreement with Gibraltar under its Royal Brexit Decree in which unilateral arrangements would be maintained in the territory and extended until June 30th 2022.

During the meeting of the Spanish Council of Ministers on Tuesday, the Spanish Government decided not to extend the agreement further, meaning that residents of Gibraltar will no longer be able to benefit from it.

In a statement the government of Gibraltar said: “It would have been HMGoG’s preference for these arrangements, which deeply affect citizens on either side of the border on matters as essential as healthcare, to have been maintained. Indeed, HMGoG was prepared to continue with them”.

“However, because reciprocity is a key element to these arrangements which cannot work without coordination and provisions for reimbursement of costs etc., HMGoG is left with no option but to discontinue them also in so far as treatment in Gibraltar is concerned,” it continued. 

What does this mean?

Gibraltar residents insured under Gibraltar’s Group Practice Medical Scheme will, after 30th June 2022, no longer be able to access free emergency healthcare in Spain during a temporary stay in the country. 

Those who are residents in Spain who travel over to Gibraltar will not have access to free healthcare on The Rock either. 

As a consequence, if a resident of Gibraltar falls ill or has an accident while over the border in Spain or the same for a Spanish resident in Gibraltar, they will have to pay for healthcare.

The government of Gibraltar is encouraging its citizens from July 1st 2022 to have appropriate travel insurance with medical cover each time they visit Spain.

This means that even those who are hopping over the border for few hours such as for a shopping trip or going out for dinner will have to make sure that they have adequate health insurance. 

“Where medical attention is required the costs incurred may be considerable, so you should ensure you have adequate insurance cover or alternatively the means to pay,” the Gibraltar government said in their statement.

  

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