Monkeypox reaches Monaco, government orders vaccines

Monaco recorded its first case of monkeypox just days before the World Health Organisation declared the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern.

Monkeypox, the latest health scare in a world still traumatised by Covid, has finally made its way to the Principality.

Dr. Olivia Keïta-Perse, head of epidemiology at the Princess Grace Hospital Centre, Thursday night revealed on government channel Monaco Info that there has been one confirmed case and three others who are believed to be infected.

On Saturday 23rd July, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared monkeypox to be a global health emergency, the strongest call to action the agency can make. It is the seventh time such a declaration has been made since 2009, the most recent being Covid-19.

A public health emergency of international concern – or PHEIC – is defined as “an extraordinary event which is determined to constitute a public health risk to other states through the international spread of disease and to potentially require a coordinated international response”.

There have so far been 16,016 monkeypox cases globally, 4,132 of which were in the past week, according to WHO data. It is now in 75 countries and territories and there have been five deaths.

The European region has the highest number of total cases at 11,865, and the highest increase in the last seven days, with 2,705.

So, what is monkeypox exactly?

Monkeypox is a virus similar to smallpox that can be passed from person to person through close physical contact, including hand holding, kissing and via sexual intercourse. Additionally, it can be spread by using towels, bedding or clothing used by an infected person. Similar to Covid, it can also be spread if an infected person sneezes or coughs near others.

Monkeypox usually takes between five and 21 days to fully manifest itself with the first symptoms including high temperature, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen glands, chills and fatigue. A rash typically appears one to five days after the first symptoms, generally starting on the face before spreading to other parts of the body, notably the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.

Often confused with chickenpox, the disease starts as raised spots that turn into fluid-filled blisters which then scab over and fall off. The disease usually clears up in a few weeks, but when a person has symptoms, they are contagious.

Now that it’s clear what it is and how it behaves, it may be comforting to note that, according to Britain’s National Health Service, the disease is usually mild, with most people recovering within a few weeks without needing treatment. There certainly can be complications, like pneumonia or encephalitis, but none of the people infected in Monaco or France have been on that list.

The higher risk groups that should be monitored are the elderly, young children and people who are immuno-compromised.

The good news is that a vaccine is available that the World Health Organisation says is about 85% effective in preventing the disease. The bad news is that it is not currently widely available.

France’s Health Minister, François Braun, announced earlier this month that France is offering a vaccine to a small number of high-risk individuals, “to limit the risk of contamination for people at risk of exposure” as cases increase and whilst “the disease is progressing favourably.”  These groups include gay men, people with multiple partners, and sex workers.

The Monaco government has asked for doses of the vaccine, but as of now, there are none available at Princess Grace Hospital, though they expect this to change soon.



Note: this story was updated with the latest information on Sunday 24th July after being originally published on 22nd July. Photo source: Shutterstock