The spread of the rare virus could “accelerate” in the summer, warns the UN health agency’s highest official in Europe
Europe should expect a wave of cases of monkey pox in the coming months, according to Hans Kluge, the World Health Organization’s top official on the continent.
“As we enter the summer season … with mass gatherings, festivals and parties, I’m worried about that transfer [of monkeypox] could accelerate “, said Kluge on Friday.
The number of infected can increase due to “the cases currently detected are among those engaged in sexual activity,” and many do not recognize the symptoms, he added.
The current spread of the virus in Western Europe is “atypical” as it was previously mostly confined to central and western Africa, the WHO Regional Director for Europe added.
“All but one of the recent cases have no relevant travel history to areas where monkey pox is endemic,” in Kluge.
Dozens of cases of smallpox – a disease that leaves distinct pustules on the skin but rarely leads to death – have been detected in the United States, Canada and Australia, as well as in the United Kingdom, France, Portugal, Sweden and other European countries.
The French, Belgian and German health authorities reported their first infections on Friday. In Belgium, the three confirmed cases of monkey pox were linked to a fetish festival in the city of Antwerp.
The rare virus was found in Israel the same day, in a man who returned from a hotspot in Western Europe.
READ MORE: Israel reports the first case of monkey pox
Kluge’s concerns were shared by UK Health Security Agency’s chief adviser Susan Hopkins, who said she was expecting “this increase will continue in the coming days and for more cases to be identified in the wider community.”
The UK had registered 20 appox infections on Friday, and Hopkins said one “remarkable share” of them were among gay and bisexual men. She urged people in that group to be careful and keep an eye out for symptoms.