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Health ministry issues guidance as monkeypox spreads

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Amid rising concern in Europe over outbreaks of monkeypox, the health ministry issued guidance on Saturday offering information about the virus to the public.

In its Q&A, the ministry explained that monkeypox was a rare viral infection closely related to the virus that causes smallpox in humans which mostly manifests in tropical areas of western central Africa. It owes its name to the fact that it was first discovered in a monkey at the end of the 1950s. The first infection in a human was recorded in 1970.

Primary transmission of the virus is mainly through contact with infected wild animals (primates or rodents) in central and western Africa, or with infected pets.

Cases of secondary person to person transmission is through the respiratory system after inhaling large droplets as well as by contact with skin lesions of an infected person or contaminated objects (bed linen or towels used by a patient). Human to human transmission is considered low.

There are rare cases of infection after consuming the meat of an infected animal that has not been adequately cooked or by touching animal skin or fur.

Although there have been incidents of infection from pets, this occurred after the pets were in contact with infected animals from western or central Africa. The risk therefore of this kind of transmission in Cyprus is exceptionally small, the ministry said.

The majority of infected individuals do not manifest any symptoms. In those that do, symptoms appear five to 21 days after infection – usually on the 12th day. Symptoms can include fever, head and muscle aches, backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion. One to three days after the fever, patient may develop a rash, starting as raised spots which turn into small blisters filled with fluid. These blisters eventually form scabs which later fall off. They usually start on the head and face, spreading to the torso and limbs, including the palms and soles of the feet.

It is worth noting that in some of the recent cases in Europe, the rash was initially observed in the genital area and then spread to other parts of the body.

Most patients recover in two to four weeks. Treatment may be required to deal with the symptoms or to prevent the virus from spreading.

Self-evident rules to avoid infection include avoid direct or indirect contact with individuals who show the symptoms of monkeypox. Also adhere to basic measures of personal hygiene (regular washing of hands with soap and water or use of antiseptic gel). If travelling to central of west Africa avoid coming into contact with wild animals.

“You are very unlikely to have the specific illness if you have not travelled recently to central or west Africa or if you have not come into close contact with someone who suffers from the illness,” the ministry said.

But individuals should contact their personal doctor if a) they have a rash with blisters and have returned from west or central Africa in the past three weeks, b) have come into contact with someone with monkeypox in the past three weeks and c) have come into contact with someone with suspicious skin lesions in the past three weeks, the ministry concluded.

In March 2021, the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a nonprofit, nonpartisan global security organisation focused on reducing nuclear and biological threats imperiling humanity, conducted a joint exercise with the Munich Security Conference based on an outbreak of monkeypox.

The scenario, according to This was illustrated in the exercise scenario: a localised bioweapons attack with a genetically engineered monkeypox virus begins in the fictional country of Brinia. Over 18 months, the scenario evolves into a globally catastrophic pandemic, leaving 40 per cent of the world’s population infected and over a quarter billion people dead.

According to the scenario, the biological attack occurred May 15, 2022 and by June 5, there had been 1,421 cases and four deaths in Brinia.

The 2021 tabletop exercise included 19 senior leaders and experts from across Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Europe with decades of combined experience in public health, biotechnology industry, international security, and philanthropy.

 

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