The EU warns that monkeypox could become endemic and urges countries to take stricter measures to combat the outbreak

The EU has urged European nations to take steps to combat monkeypox or risk the disease becoming endemic on the continent.

Countries have been urged to review their stocks of the smallpox vaccine, which can be used to immunize against monkeypox, and to prepare antivirals that could be used to treat the virus.

In an alert issued on Monday, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) – the EU’s infectious diseases agency – also urged member states to update their contract tracing and diagnostic capabilities for orthopoxviruses, which cause monkeypox.

It said a failure to prevent the disease from spreading to wildlife could also result in it becoming endemic in Europe.

ECDC said that as of May 23, 68 confirmed cases had been reported in eight EU countries – Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Sweden – and at least another 42 suspected cases were being investigated.

Andrea Ammon, Director of ECDC, said: “Most of the current cases have shown mild symptoms of the disease and the likelihood of spread to the wider population is very low.”

However, she said the likelihood of further spreading the virus through close contact, such as B. sexual contact, is rated as high.

ECDC said those who caught the disease will remain in isolation until their lesions have fully healed, which may take 21 days. The UK government is also advising those who have been in close contact with someone diagnosed with monkeypox to self-isolate for the same period.

Stella Kyriakides, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said: “I am concerned by the increasing number of reported cases of monkeypox in the EU and globally. We are closely monitoring the situation and while the likelihood of it spreading to the wider population is currently low, the situation is evolving.

“We all need to remain vigilant, ensure contact tracing and adequate diagnostic capacity are in place, and ensure we have the necessary vaccines, antivirals and personal protective equipment for healthcare professionals available.”

A particle of the monkeypox virus viewed under a microscope

(CDC/Charles D. Humphrey/Tiara Morehead/Russell Regnery)

The ECDC statement said monkeypoxvirus can cause serious illness in certain groups such as young children, pregnant women and those who are immunocompromised, but added: “Further research is needed to accurately estimate the morbidity and mortality levels in this outbreak.”

It added: “If human-to-animal transmission occurs and the virus spreads in an animal population, there is a risk that the disease will become endemic in Europe.

“Therefore, close intersectoral collaboration between human and veterinary health authorities is required to manage exposed pets and prevent the disease from being transmitted to wild animals.”

However, the probability of a “spill-over” on the animal population in Europe is very low.

The move comes after guidance released on Saturday by Britain’s Health Security Agency recommending pre-exposure vaccination with the MVA-BN vaccine.

This also applies to healthcare workers who need to care for a patient with confirmed monkeypox and to people performing decontamination procedures, even if they are wearing personal protective equipment.

UK guidelines state that two doses of vaccine should be given at least two days apart.

For those already exposed to the virus, it is recommended to take a single dose ideally within 14 days.

The guidelines said those who are immunocompromised should not routinely participate in the treatment of a patient with a disease such as monkeypox. The EU warns that monkeypox could become endemic and urges countries to take stricter measures to combat the outbreak

Bobby Allyn

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