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HEALTH

Sweden registers first confirmed case of monkeypox

One person in Sweden has a confirmed case of monkeypox, health authorities said Thursday following similar cases in Europe and North America.

Sweden registers first confirmed case of monkeypox
This 2003 electron microscope image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows mature, oval-shaped monkeypox virions. Photo: Cynthia S. Goldsmith, Russell Regner/CDC/AP

The rare disease usually manifests itself through fever, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, exhaustion and a rash on the hands and face.

“One person in the Stockholm region has been confirmed to be infected with monkey pox,” Sweden’s Public Health Agency said in a statement.

The infected person “is not seriously ill, but has been given care,” according to the agency.

“We still don’t know where the person was infected. An investigation is currently underway,” Klara Sonden, an infectious disease doctor and investigator at the agency, said in a statement.

The health authority is now “investigating with the regional infection control centres whether there are more cases in Sweden,” it said.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) also said Thursday it expects to publish a first risk assessment report “early next week.”

The European Union agency, which said it was “monitoring the situation closely”, recommends that “suspected cases should be isolated and tested and notified promptly.”

Several dozen suspected or confirmed cases of monkeypox have been detected since the beginning of May in Europe and North America, stoking fears that the disease is beginning to spread.

The UK, which first reported cases in early May, on Wednesday evening reported a total of nine cases in the country.

On Wednesday, Spain, Portugal, Canada and the United States all reported having cases of confirmed or suspected monkeypox.

Authorities have generally been reassuring, with Spanish and Portuguese officials stressing that the disease is not very contagious between humans.

The increase in cases is nevertheless worrying, and the World Health Organization (WHO) said Monday it was looking closely at the issue and in particular that some of the cases in the UK appeared to have been transmitted within the gay community.

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HEALTH

WHO says European festivals should go ahead despite monkeypox risk

Most new cases of monkeypox are currently detected in Western Europe. The World Health Organisation says this is no reason to cancel more than 800 festivals scheduled to take place on the continent this summer.

WHO says European festivals should go ahead despite monkeypox risk

The World Health Organization said Friday that European summer festivals should not be cancelled due to the monkeypox outbreak but should instead manage the risk of amplifying the virus.

A surge of monkeypox cases has been detected since May outside of the West and Central African countries where the disease has long been endemic.

Most of the new cases have been in Western Europe.

More than 3,200 confirmed cases and one death have now been reported to the WHO from 48 countries in total this year.

“We have all the summer festivals, concerts and many other events just starting in the northern hemisphere,” Amaia Artazcoz, the WHO’s mass gatherings technical officer, told a webinar entitled “Monkeypox outbreak and mass gatherings: Protecting yourself at festivals and parties”.

The events “may represent a conducive environment for transmission”, she said.

“These gatherings have really close proximity and usually for a prolonged period of time, and also a lot of frequent interactions among people,” Artazcoz explained.

“Nevertheless… we are not recommending postponing or cancelling any of the events in the areas where monkeypox cases have been identified.”

Sarah Tyler, the senior communications consultant on health emergencies at WHO Europe, said there were going to be more than 800 festivals in the region, bringing together hundreds of thousands of people from different countries.

“Most attendees are highly mobile and sexually active and a number of them will have intimate skin-to-skin contact at or around these events,” she said.

“Some may also have multiple sexual contacts, including new or anonymous partners. Without action, we risk seeing a surge in monkeypox cases in Europe this summer.”

Risk awareness

The UN health agency recommends that countries identify events most likely to be associated with the risk of monkeypox transmission.

The WHO urged festival organisers to raise awareness through effective communication, detect cases early, stop transmission and protect people at risk.

The outbreak in newly-affected countries is primarily among men who have sex with men, and who have reported recent sex with new or multiple partners, according to the WHO.

People with symptoms are advised to avoid attending gatherings, while people in communities among whom monkeypox has been found to occur more frequently than in the general population should exercise particular caution, it says.

The normal initial symptoms of monkeypox include a high fever, swollen lymph nodes and a blistery chickenpox-like rash.

Meg Doherty, from the global HIV, hepatitis and sexually-transmitted infection programmes at WHO, said: “We are not calling this a sexually-transmitted infection.

“Stigmatising never helps in a disease outbreak,” she added.

“This is not a gay disease. However, we want people to be aware of what the risks are.”

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