Cyprus on alert for monkeypox

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Experts urge the government and public to be vigilant for monkeypox cases, as an unprecedented global spread of the virus raises a new health alarm.

In comments to CNA, University of Cyprus assistant professor of infectious diseases Dr Maria Koliou said that monkeypox could reach the island, as European countries have already reported cases.

“The number of cases reported so far is small. We know how it is transmitted, so we have to be careful in general as a population.

“We need to stick to basic hygiene rules. For example, avoid coming in contact with people with suspicious pox-like symptoms.”

Dr Koliou said if someone develops suspicious symptoms, they are advised to contact their GP.

Monkeypox is transmitted through close contact and not necessarily through sexual contact.

“A doctor who touches a patient’s lesions without gloves and then touches his face can be infected.

“The virus is also airborne. So if someone who has this virus – coughs in your face, it could infect you with the virus.”

Koliou said Cyprus is equipped with antiviral medicine capable of treating the illness caused by monkeypox.

“Experience tells us that this is a mild disease that can be treated.

“Some groups of the population, such as the immunosuppressed and children, are at higher risk of becoming more seriously ill.”

Asked if monkeypox could evolve into a new pandemic, Koliou said no one could rule this out, as health experts are still puzzled over how it spread to countries where it was not endemic.

“It is the first time that the virus has been recorded in so many countries at once, and scientists are wondering whether a new, more contagious variant of the virus has emerged.”

Koliou did say that a vaccine against smallpox offers 80% protection against monkeypox and will be given to high-risk groups if deemed necessary.

According to the Financial Times, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) will recommend that member states roll out a vaccination program.

A risk assessment report will be published on Monday. Any vaccination rollout will be using the existing smallpox vaccine, as there is no approved monkeypox vaccine.

Since May, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), cases of monkeypox have been reported in 12 countries where monkeypox is not endemic.

The United States, Australia, Canada and at least nine European countries have recorded cases of the disease, which derived its name because it was first detected in monkeys.

No deaths have been recorded so far.

The UK, Portugal and Spain are among the worst hit in Europe.

Other nations that have reported cases are Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands, Italy, and Sweden.

Reported cases so far have no established travel links to endemic areas.

Based on currently available information, cases have mainly but not exclusively been identified among men who have had sex with men (MSM) seeking care in primary care and sexual health clinics.

The Health Ministry will be sending out instructions to doctors and hospitals to deal with possible monkeypox cases by Tuesday.