UK offers smallpox vaccination as cases of monkeypox spread across Europe


UK offers smallpox vaccination as cases of monkeypox spread across Europe

LONDON, May 19 (Reuters) – A few cases of monkeypox in the UK have prompted authorities to offer a smallpox vaccine to some healthcare workers and others who may have been exposed, as a handful of other cases have been confirmed in parts of Europe.

Monkeypox is a viral disease, usually mild, characterized by feverish symptoms and a characteristic bumpy rash.

There are two main tribes: the Congo tribe, which is more serious – with up to 10% mortality – and the West African tribe, which has a mortality rate of around 1%.

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The viral disease, first identified in monkeys, typically spreads through close contact and is found primarily in west and central Africa. It has rarely spread elsewhere, so this new spate of cases outside the continent has sparked concern.

Nine cases of the West African tribe have been reported in the UK so far. Continue reading

There is no specific vaccine against monkeypox, but a smallpox vaccine offers some protection, a UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) spokesman said.

Data shows that vaccines used to eradicate smallpox are 85% effective against monkeypox, according to the World Health Organization.

“Those who have needed the vaccine have been offered it,” added the UKHSA spokesman, without giving details of how many people have been vaccinated so far.

Some countries, including the United States, have large stocks of the smallpox vaccine as part of pandemic preparedness.

Copenhagen-based drugmaker Bavarian Nordic (BAVA.CO) said Thursday it had struck a deal with an unnamed European country to supply its smallpox vaccine, Imvanex, in response to the monkeypox outbreak.


The first European case was confirmed on May 7 in a person returning to England from Nigeria, where monkeypox is endemic.

Since then, Portugal has reported 14 cases and Spain has confirmed seven cases. The United States and Sweden have each reported one case. Italian authorities have confirmed one case and suspect two more. Continue reading

Several monkeypox outbreaks in Africa have been contained during the COVID pandemic while the world’s attention was elsewhere, Africa’s top public health agency said on Thursday.

“However, we are concerned about the numerous countries outside, particularly in Europe, that are seeing these outbreaks of monkeypox,” said Acting Director of the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Ahmed Ogwell Ouma.

“It would be very useful if knowledge was shared about what the source of these outbreaks actually is,” he said. Continue reading

Meanwhile in the UK, the UKHSA has highlighted that recent cases in the country have mostly involved men who self-identified as gay, bisexual or men who have sex with men.

This unusual spike in cases outside of Africa could indicate a novel way of spreading or a change in the virus, said Anne Rimoin, an epidemiology professor at UCLA in California. “But that is all to be determined”.

“This will not cause a nationwide epidemic like COVID,” warned Jimmy Whitworth, professor of international public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

“But it is a serious outbreak of a serious illness – and we should take it seriously.”

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Reporting by Jennifer Rigby and Natalie Grover in London; Twitter @NatalieGrover; additional reporting by Anna Ringstrom in Stockholm and Agnieszka Flak in Milan; Edited by Elaine Hardcastle

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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