More monkeypox cases suspected across Spain

As health authorities hone in on a Madrid sauna as the origin of the outbreak, more suspected cases of the mysterious monkeypox virus are popping up across Spain, including the first infection of a woman.

More monkeypox cases suspected across Spain
Monkeypox transmission is usually via close contact with infected animals such as rodents and monkeys, and is limited between people. It has only been fatal in rare cases. Photo: Sanjay Kanojia/AFP

More cases of monkeypox have been detected across Spain this weekend. 

Monkeypox is not usually fatal but often manifests itself through fever, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, exhaustion and a chickenpox-like rash on the hands and face. Transmission is usually via close contact with infected animals such as monkeys.

Recent cases suggest that virus can also be transmitted through contact with skin lesions or droplets of bodily fluid from an infected person.

The first infection in the wave of cases observed in Europe was reportedly in the United Kingdom. Cases have since been reported in Portugal, Germany, Canada, the United States, Italy, Sweden, Belgium, Australia, Switzerland and France.

In Spain the majority of the suspected cases has been concentrated in Madrid, with the outbreak believed to have begun at a sauna in the capital which has since closed its doors. Some reports in the Spanish media have also suggested a party in the Canary Islands may have further spread the virus.

READ ALSO Spanish monkeypox outbreak linked to sauna

But this weekend the Spanish press have reported that cases have now been detected in Andalusia, Basque Country, Castilla-La Mancha, Galicia and Aragon, and that Extremadura has reported the first suspected case of a woman being infected. 

At last count, Spanish health authorities confirmed 7 cases nationwide and a further 23 people who tested positive for a “non-human” virus but still awaited further results. A further update is expected at the beginning of next week, and contact tracing is believed to be under way.

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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.