IRISH HEALTH AUTHORITIES have confirmed an additional two cases of monkeypox in Ireland, bringing the total number of cases here to six.
The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) has said the new cases were “not unexpected” in the context of monkeypox cases in the UK and many European countries.
Dr Derval Igoe, Chair of the HSE Monkeypox Incident Management Team, today said authorities are trying to figure out why the virus is spreading much further than previous outbreaks.
“I think this is new. This has not been seen before. That’s the focus of attention of all countries – including the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC),” Dr Igoe said.
“It may be just an opportunity for a virus to get into a situation, there may have been an amplifying event or two and then the disease is able to pass through various different chains of transmission without being recognised immediately,” she told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland earlier.
Speaking about the four patients confirmed before this afternoon, Igoe said they are not suffering significant illness due to contracting the virus and that for most people it’s mild.
She noted that the cases, like most cases around the world, are not linked to travel to West Africa, where the disease is endemic.
Worldwide, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has confirmed that hundreds of monkeypox cases have surfaced beyond the African countries where the disease is typically found.
The United Nations agency yesterday warned that the virus has likely been spreading under the radar.
“Investigations are ongoing, but the sudden appearance of monkeypox in many countries at the same time suggests there may have been undetected transmission for some time,” World Health Organisation chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
More than 550 cases of the disease have been confirmed in 30 countries outside of the west and central African nations where it is endemic, the WHO announced.
Monkeypox is related to smallpox, which killed millions around the world every year before it was eradicated in 1980.
But monkeypox, which spreads through close contact, is much less severe, with symptoms typically including a high fever and a blistery chickenpox-like rash that clears up after a few weeks.
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Vaccines developed for smallpox have also been found to be about 85% effective in preventing monkeypox, but they are in short supply.
The WHO is proposing targeted vaccine use in some settings to protect health workers and people most at risk of infection.
Additional reporting from Rónán Duffy and AFP