Belgium introduces mandatory monkeypox quarantine as global cases rise

In this 1971 photo from the CDC, monkeypox-like lesions appear on the arm and leg of a baby girl in Bundoa, Liberia.

CDC | Getty Images

Belgium has become the first country to implement a mandatory 21-day quarantine for monkeypox patients, as cases of the disease – usually endemic to Africa – are spreading across the world.

Health authorities in Belgium introduced the measures on Friday after the country reported its third case of the virus. As of Monday, the country had recorded four domestic cases; The number of confirmed global infections is currently around 100.

Compulsory procedures in Belgium only apply to patients with confirmed infections. Close contacts are not required to self-isolate but are encouraged to remain vigilant, especially if they have been in contact with people at risk.

A copy of the government announcement translated from the Dutch language said: “Infected people will have to undergo isolation until the wounds have healed (they will receive specific instructions about this from the attending physician)”.

Meanwhile, the UK said those at high risk of contracting the disease should self-isolate for 21 days. This includes household contacts or medical professionals who may have been in contact with an infected patient.

What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by the monkeypox virus – part of the smallpox family – with symptoms including rash, fever, headache, muscle aches, swelling, and back pain.

Although it is usually less severe than smallpox, health experts are concerned about the origins of the recent outbreak, which began in early May, in countries outside Central and West Africa.

Health authorities, including the US Centers for Disease Control and Infection and the UK’s Health Security Agency, said they had noted a particular concentration of cases among men who have sex with men, and urged gay and bisexual men in particular to be aware of any unusual case. Skin rash or lesions.

As of Saturday, the World Health Organization said there were 92 cases in 12 countries, and another 28 suspected cases were under investigation. The United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Belgium, Portugal and the Netherlands have all confirmed cases.

In this Centers for Disease Control and Prevention graph, symptoms of one of the first known cases of monkeypox virus appear on a patient’s hand on May 27, 2003.

CDC | Getty Images

The Public Health Authority said the newly reported cases were unrelated to travel from endemic African countries, which is unusual for the disease. It is usually spread by human-to-human or human-to-animal contact.

“Epidemiological investigations are underway, but the cases reported so far have no confirmed travel links to endemic areas,” the World Health Organization said in a statement posted on its website on Saturday.

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

More cases of monkeypox are likely to occur

The recent increase in community cases, particularly within urban areas, is raising fears of a wider outbreak.

“For it to emerge now — more than 100 cases in 12 different countries with no clear link — means we have to figure out exactly what’s going on,” Seth Berkeley, CEO of the Global Vaccine Alliance Gavi, told CNBC Monday.

“The truth is we don’t know what it is, and therefore how dangerous it is,” he said. “But it is likely that we will see more cases.”

Although most cases of monkeypox are mild and usually resolve within two to four weeks, there is currently no proven vaccine. The smallpox vaccine has proven to be 85% effective in preventing infection, and some countries have already started stockpiling the doses.

Berkeley warned that the new outbreak, which occurred even as the current coronavirus pandemic “isn’t over,” served as a warning to authorities to invest more resources in infectious diseases. He was speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where political and business leaders met this week to discuss key global issues, including pandemic preparedness.

“It is evolutionarily certain that we will see more outbreaks,” he said. “That’s why pandemic preparedness is so important. Look at what it can do economically when you have a pandemic”

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