Sweden confirms first monkeypox case, France has suspected infection

Monkeypox is a virus that causes fever symptoms as well as a distinctive bumpy rash. PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS (REUTERS, AFP) - Sweden has reported its first monkeypox case, after the UK, Spain, Portugal, the United States and Canada reported infections.

A first suspected case of the virus on French territory has been detected in the Paris/Ile-de-France region as well, the French Health Ministry said on Thursday (May 19), amid signs of the virus spreading around the world.

Italy has also reported a case, in a young adult who had recently returned from the Canary Islands.

Monkeypox is a virus that causes fever symptoms as well as a distinctive bumpy rash.

It is usually mild, although there are two main strains: the Congo strain, which is more severe - with up to 10 per cent mortality - and the West African strain, which has a fatality rate in about 1 per cent of cases.

Sweden said a person in Stockholm had been infected with the disease. “One person in the Stockholm region has been confirmed to be infected with monkey pox,” Sweden’s Public Health Agency said in a statement.

The infected person “is not seriously ill, but has been given care,” according to the agency.

“We still don’t know where the person was infected. An investigation is currently under way,” Klara Sonden, an infectious disease doctor and investigator at the agency, said in a statement.

The health authority is now “investigating with the regional infection control centres whether there are more cases in Sweden,” it said.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) also said on Thursday it expects to publish a first risk assessment report “early next week.”

The European Union agency, which said it was “monitoring the situation closely”, recommends that “suspected cases should be isolated and tested and notified promptly.”

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Several dozen suspected or confirmed cases of monkeypox have been detected since the beginning of May in Europe and North America, stoking fears that the disease is beginning to spread.

The UK, which first reported cases in early May, on Wednesday evening reported a total of nine cases in the country.

On Wednesday, Spain, Portugal, Canada and the United States all reported having cases of confirmed or suspected monkeypox.

Authorities have generally been reassuring, with Spanish and Portuguese officials stressing that the disease is not very contagious between humans.

The increase in cases is nevertheless worrying, and the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Monday it was looking closely at the issue and in particular that some of the cases in the UK appeared to have been transmitted within the gay community.

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