This 1971 handout photo from the Centers for Disease Control shows monkeypox-like lesions on the arm and leg of a female child in Bondua, Liberia.
CDC | Getty Images
Belgium is the first country to introduce a mandatory 21-day quarantine for monkeypox patients as cases of the disease – which is typically endemic to Africa – spread around the world.
Health authorities in Belgium introduced the measures on Friday after reporting their third case of the virus. As of Monday, the country has registered four local cases; confirmed global infections are currently around 100.
Belgium’s mandatory measures only apply to patients with a confirmed infection. Close contacts are not required to self-isolate but are encouraged to remain vigilant, particularly when coming into contact with vulnerable people.
“Infected people must go into contact isolation until the injuries have healed (they will receive specific instructions from the doctor treating them),” said a translated government statement.
The UK, meanwhile, has said those at high risk of contracting the disease should self-isolate for 21 days. This includes household contacts or healthcare professionals who may have come into contact with an infected patient.
What is monkeypox?
Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by the monkeypox virus – part of the smallpox family – with symptoms including a rash, fever, headache, muscle aches, swelling and back pain.
Although usually less severe than smallpox, health experts are increasingly concerned about the origin of a recent outbreak that began in countries outside of central and west Africa in early May.
Health officials, including the US Centers for Disease Control and Infection and the UK Health Security Agency, say they have noticed a particular concentration of cases among men who have sex with men, and are urging gay and bisexual men in particular to stop Unusual things to look out for Skin rashes or lesions.
On Saturday, the World Health Organization reported that there were 92 cases in 12 countries and another 28 suspected cases are being investigated. The US, UK, Canada, Australia, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Belgium, Portugal and the Netherlands all have confirmed cases.
This handout graphic from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows symptoms of one of the first known cases of monkeypox virus on a patient’s hand on May 27, 2003.
CDC | Getty Images
The public health agency said the recently reported cases had no link to travel from endemic African countries, which is unusual for the disease. It usually spreads through human-to-human or human-to-animal contact.
“Epidemiological investigations are ongoing, but cases reported to date have no established travel links to endemic areas,” the WHO said in a statement published on its website on Saturday.
“Based on the information currently available, cases have been identified primarily, but not exclusively, in men who have sex with men (MSM) and are treated in primary care and sexual health clinics,” she added.
More monkeypox cases likely
The recent increase in cases in the community, particularly in urban areas, is now raising concerns of a larger outbreak.
“To make it appear now — more than 100 cases in 12 different countries with no apparent link — means we need to figure out exactly what’s happening,” Seth Berkley, CEO of global vaccine alliance Gavi, told CNBC on Monday.
“The truth is we don’t know what that is and how hard it’s going to be. But it is likely that we will see more cases,” he said.
Although most cases of monkeypox are mild and usually resolve within 2 to 4 weeks, there is currently no proven vaccine. The smallpox vaccine has proven to be 85% effective at preventing infection, and some countries have already started hoarding doses.
Berkley warned that the new outbreak, which is emerging even though the existing coronavirus pandemic is “not over” yet, is a warning for authorities to invest more resources in infectious diseases. He was speaking on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, where political and business leaders gathered this week to discuss key global issues, including preparing for a pandemic.
“This is evolutionarily certain that we will see more outbreaks,” he said. “This is why preparing for a pandemic is so important. Look at what it can do economically if you are affected by a pandemic.”