EU advises countries to plan vaccines against monkeypox outbreak

EU advises countries to plan vaccines against monkeypox outbreak
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Monkeypox can be spread through close contact with an infected person (Photo: AFP/Reuters)

The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control has asked states to prepare strategies to control the spread of monkeypox, including vaccination.

In a report released today, they said: “Countries should update their contact tracing mechanisms, orthopoxvirus diagnostic capacity and review the availability of smallpox vaccines, antivirals and personal protective equipment. (PPE) for healthcare professionals.”

It advises the government to review the types, doses and licensing status of vaccines in case they need to be rolled out.

The report does not recommend mass vaccination programs for people who are not particularly at risk, but does indicate that exposed people could receive the vaccine.

It says healthcare workers who may be exposed to the virus could also be vaccinated as a precaution.

The European body’s report states that infected people “should remain in isolation until their rash has completely healed, avoiding contact with immunocompromised people and pets”.

They said most people should be able to stay in isolation at home ‘with supportive care’.

Cases of monkeypox have been discovered in nine EU Member States: Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the Netherlands. The disease has also been discovered in the United Kingdom, as well as in Canada, the United States (Boston and New York), Australia, Israel and Switzerland.

Currently, there is no specific approved vaccine, but the smallpox vaccine is effective.

If current outbreaks continue to grow, states will likely need to start deploying bites to try to get the spread under control.

For example, close contacts of infected people could receive the vaccine to protect them

The UK already has advised that close contacts of people with monkeypox could receive a post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) vaccine.

This would be the Imvanex smallpox vaccine, which contains a live modified form of the vaccinia virus called ‘vaccinia Ankara’, which is related to the smallpox virus.

Previously, people routinely received a smallpox vaccine, but this is no longer the case since it was officially declared eradicated in 1980.

The latest measures are a sign of how seriously health authorities are taking this virus, which is generally not a major concern in Europe.

Today the Government said there were now 56 confirmed cases in England, up from 20 at the last count, with the first case in Scotland confirmed today.

Since the first case was reported on May 7, by someone who traveled from Nigeria, there have since been more cases in the UK, mostly unrelated to that patient or to travel abroad .

Between May 18 and May 22, nine EU states reported additional suspected or confirmed cases.

Some of the countries where monkeypox cases have been discovered this month

Early symptoms of monkeypox include fever, headache, muscle aches, back pain, swollen lymph nodes, chills, and exhaustion.

A rash may develop, often starting on the face and then spreading to other parts of the body, including the genitals.

The rash changes and goes through different stages – it may look like chickenpox or syphilis, before eventually forming a scab that later falls off.

Most people recover within a few weeks, even without treatment, but it can cause serious illness in some people.

Young children, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems would be particularly affected.

Those who have multiple sexual partners have been warned to be vigilant for monkeypox as it can be spread from skin to skin or by touching sheets or towels used by an infected person.

Downing Street said the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) was monitoring the disease “very closely”.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The facts we know are that monkeypox does not usually spread easily between people and the risk to others remains low.”

“A notable proportion of the first cases detected were in gay and bisexual men, so the UKHSA urges this community in particular to be vigilant.

“It’s true to say that most people recover within a few weeks.”

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