Large-scale monkeypox cases in China unlikely: expert

Monkeypox virus Photo: VCG

Monkeypox outbreaks in Europe and the United States have recently drawn public attention on China’s social media platform, along with rising COVID-19 infections in some Chinese cities. While calling for preparations given the risk of imported cases of monkeypox in China, Chinese experts have tried to allay public concerns, noting that the possibility of a large-scale monkeypox outbreak in the country is low.

Nine cases of the West African strain have been reported in the UK. Portugal has recorded five confirmed cases and Spain is testing 23 potential cases. Neither country has previously reported cases. The United States has also reported a case, media reported Friday.

Monkeypox is a virus transmitted to humans from animals with symptoms very similar to those seen in the past in smallpox patients, although clinically less severe, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). ).

Since it was first identified in humans in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo, it has rarely spread elsewhere, so this unusual spike in cases outside the African continent, which experts consider “rare”, has sparked global concern.

The rare cases outside of Africa may signify a potential outbreak in those places. We should pay close attention to this, a Beijing-based Chinese immunologist told the Global Times.

The expert said that if necessary, China could apply monkeypox quarantine measures to international arrivals from places facing an increase in monkeypox infections.

But the virus does not pose a big threat to China, the expert noted, trying to allay public concerns. He explained that, despite a high death rate comparable to SARS, the monkeypox virus is less contagious.

A global estimate of case fatality for SARS is around 14-15% and the case fatality rate for smallpox can be as high as 30%.

The country also has very strict quarantine rules on imported animals, especially rodents where the virus originated, experts noted.

China’s successful experience in eliminating smallpox would also help the country act if monkeypox enters China’s borders, experts noted.

China stopped vaccinating against smallpox in 1982. The country developed a smallpox vaccine in 1926 and eliminated the disease in 1961, 14 years earlier before the WHO declared smallpox eliminated in Asia.

Monkeypox is usually accompanied by fever, rash, and swollen lymph nodes and can lead to various medical complications. It is usually a self-limiting disease with symptoms lasting two to four weeks. Serious cases can occur. In recent times, the case fatality rate has been around 3-6%, the WHO said.

Monkeypox is transmitted to humans through close contact with an infected person or animal, or with material contaminated with the virus, the WHO said, noting that the virus is transmitted from person to person through close contact. with lesions, bodily fluids, respiratory droplets and contaminated. materials such as bedding.

The cases in the UK mainly involved men who identified as gay, bisexual or who have sex with men, the UK health authority has revealed.

British experts have also warned that cases outside Africa could suggest a new way of spread or a change in the virus, which is “all to be determined”. But they noted that the possibility of a national outbreak of monkeypox like COVID-19 is low.

There is no specific vaccine against monkeypox, but a smallpox vaccine is said to be up to 85% effective against monkeypox, according to the WHO.

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

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