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What do the worldwide cases of monkeypox mean?


Monkeypox infections in humans are on the rise. More and more countries are reporting the first evidence, but not so far in Germany. How experts assess the situation.

Enlarge image

Monkeypox under the microscope (archive image)

Photo: Cynthia S. Goldsmith/Russell Regner/CDC/AP

Initially, only Great Britain was affected, but several European countries are now reporting cases of monkeypox, and the pathogen has also appeared in the USA.

The extent is surprising, experts are watching the development.

What kind of virus is this - and how worrying is the development?

The most important questions and answers:

In which countries has monkeypox appeared so far?

Apparently, the pathogen has spread to several Western countries.

Numerous records from



North America

were already known on Thursday, including

Great Britain










Since the situation is still unclear at the moment, news agencies sometimes report different numbers.

  • In


    , the health authorities reported at least eight cases in Madrid.

    There are also 22 suspected cases, all in the Madrid region.

  • In


    the first case of monkeypox infection has also been found, the message came from Rome.

    According to the clinic is the person who came back from a stay in the Canary Islands, in isolation.

    Two other suspected cases are still under investigation.

  • The EU health authority ECDC reported five cases for


    , but according to the Reuters agency, there could already be a total of 14 infections.

    Most cases have been reported in and around the capital, Lisbon.

  • Nine confirmed cases have been reported

    in the

    UK so far.

  • In


    , one case was reported from the greater Stockholm area.

more on the subject

  • Human-to-human transmission: Four more cases of monkeypox discovered in London

  • Rare zoonotic virus: Man contracted monkeypox

There have not yet been any cases in Germany.

"The RKI has never known of a case of monkeypox in Germany," said the Robert Koch Institute at the request of the German Press Agency.

However, in the course of the increased attention, further evidence can be expected, probably also in other regions of the world.

The RKI has sensitized physicians in a published contribution to the viral infection.

What is monkeypox and where is it commonly found?

The pathogen was first detected in monkeys in 1958 – hence the name.

However, experts suspect that the virus actually circulates in rodents, monkeys are considered so-called false hosts.

"Infections can be transmitted through contact with the secretions of infected animals," says the RKI report.

So far, monkeypox infections in humans have been known primarily from regions in West and Central Africa.

The first case was registered in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, writes an international team of researchers in the journal Plos Neglected Tropical Diseases.

The virus then spread to other African countries and was first detected outside of the continent in 2003.

Are the current cases unusual?

"The cases now occurring outside of Africa are unusual and must be carefully examined and any further spread carefully observed," said the Friedrich Loeffler Institute, the Federal Research Institute for Animal Health, on Thursday.

"In the past, the monkeypox outbreaks were limited in their spread," said the Marburg virologist Stephan Becker, according to the dpa.

Chains of infection between people are unusual and must be closely monitored.

"The current outbreak indicates a change in human-to-human transmission," wrote the head of the Infectious Diseases Clinic at the Berlin Charité, Leif Erik Sander, on Twitter on Thursday.

The declining population immunity since the end of smallpox vaccination probably contributes to this.

The scientist describes monkeypox as less morbid than smallpox, but it is "nevertheless a serious and in some cases fatal disease".

Sander sees “certainly no reason to panic” at the moment: However, the outbreak shows “how much infectious diseases pose a constant threat in a globalized world, for which we have to prepare better”.

The WHO called for all contacts of those affected to be traced.

Clinics and the population would have to be made aware of the need for an unusual skin rash to be examined by specialist staff.

If the suspicion of monkeypox is confirmed, patients should be isolated.

According to the analysis presented in Plos Neglected Tropical Diseases, the global number of proven, probable, and suspected cases has increased more than tenfold over the past five decades.

As a possible reason the researchers call a waning immunity after the stop of smallpox vaccinations 1980th

Overall, monkeypox is gradually gaining global importance, according to the researchers.

Marburg virologist Becker explained that it is not yet possible to assess whether the virus will occupy the niche that has been vacated by the eradication of smallpox.

How contagious is the virus and how is it transmitted?

The virus is actually considered to be less contagious.

Details of the currently known infections are still largely unclear.

The British health authority UKHSA assumes that the first case in Great Britain is due to an infection in Nigeria.

After that, the pathogen seems to have been transmitted to other people unusually often.

Currently the contagion seem at least not to be carried by aerosols, the Marburg virologist Becker estimates.

"Then the propagation pattern would be different."

Symptomatic patients are contagious through close contact as long as the smallpox has not yet completely healed and the scabs have not yet fallen off - this is usually the case after two to three weeks.

The viruses can be transmitted through contact with bodily fluids or crusts, and the sexual transmission of smallpox viruses is also possible, according to the RKI report.

What are the symptoms and how are they treated?

According to the British health authority UKHSA, the virus disease usually causes only mild symptoms, but can also have severe courses.

The symptoms of a monkeypox infection include sudden onset of fever, severe headache, back pain, sore throat, cough, and often also swelling of the lymph nodes.

A rash extending from the face to the body with blisters or pustules is also typical.

According to the RKI, the consequences of surviving an infection can be scarring and, rarely, blindness.

There is no specific therapy and no vaccination against monkeypox.

According to historical data but a smallpox vaccination also protects well against monkeypox - and probably for life.

According to the RKI, however, large parts of the world's population have no vaccination protection.


Source: spiegel

All tech articles on 2022-05-19

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