Top health officials hold urgent talks after first confirmed case of monkeypox in Israel


What is monkeypox and where does it spread?

Health Ministry officials met on Saturday night after confirming an Israeli man who had recently returned from a trip to western Europe was infected with monkeypox.

Members of the Israel Center for Disease Control committee were asked to attend the urgent meeting after Israel reported its first suspected case on Friday.

During the meeting, the Health Ministry said the 30-year-old man, who was hospitalized at Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital, was infected with monkeypox.

The ministry said he was in good condition and was being isolated and monitored.

The Ministry of Health urged people who have recently returned from abroad and are showing symptoms to contact their doctor. The ministry also said it was “assessing the inventory of vaccines and relevant medicines” and preparing for further diagnoses.

Top European health officials warned on Friday that cases could accelerate in the coming months as the virus has spread to at least eight European countries.

The World Health Organization’s regional director for Europe, Hans Kluge, said: “As we enter the summer season… with mass gatherings, festivals and parties, I am concerned that transmission could be accelerating.”

The virus, which causes characteristic pustules but is rarely fatal, has previously been observed in central and western Africa.

This 1997 image, provided by the CDC during an investigation into a monkeypox outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), formerly Zaire, shows the dorsal surfaces of the hands of a monkeypox patient who was showing the appearance of the characteristic rash during its recovery period. (CDC via AP)

But in recent weeks cases have been detected in European countries including Portugal and Sweden, as well as the United States, Canada and Australia, Kluge said, calling the spread “atypical”.

“All but one of the most recent cases have no relevant history of travel to areas where monkeypox is endemic,” he added.

The health official warned that transmission could be amplified by the fact that “the cases currently detected are among those engaging in sexual activity” and many do not recognize the symptoms.

Most first cases were in men who had sex with men and were treated at sexual health clinics, Kluge said, adding, “This suggests that transmission may have been going on for some time.”

The World Health Organization has said it is investigating the fact that many reported cases have been people who identify as gay, bisexual, or men who have sex with men.

The official’s statement came as France, Belgium and Germany reported their first cases of monkeypox and Italy confirmed it now had three linked cases of the disease.

According to the WHO, monkeypox usually subsides after two to four weeks.

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