Risk of monkeypox spreading widely 'very low': EU agency
This 1997 image provided by the CDC during an investigation into an outbreak of monkeypox, which took place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), formerly Zaire, and depicts the dorsal surfaces of the hands of a monkeypox case patient, who was displaying the appearance of the characteristic rash during its recuperative stage. As more cases of monkeypox are detected in Europe and North America in 2022, some scientists who have monitored numerous outbreaks in Africa say they are baffled by the unusual disease's spread in developed countries. (CDC via AP)

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AFP)— The EU health agency ECDC said Monday the risk that the rare disease monkeypox would spread widely among the general population was "very low", though high for certain groups.

"Most of the current cases have presented with mild disease symptoms, and for the broader population, the likelihood of spread is very low," Andrea Ammon, director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said in a statement.

"However, the likelihood of further spread of the virus through close contact, for example during sexual activities among persons with multiple sexual partners, is considered to be high," she added.

As of May 21, the World Health Organization has received reports of 92 laboratory-confirmed monkeypox cases and 28 suspected cases from 12 countries where the disease is not endemic, including several European nations, the United States, Australia and Canada.

On Monday, Denmark's infectious disease agency SSI also reported that a first case had been confirmed in the Scandinavian country.

"I am concerned about the increased number of reported monkeypox cases in the EU and globally. We are closely monitoring the situation," Stella Kyriakides, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety said.

Kyriakides noted that the while the likelihood of spread in "the broader population is low", it was important to "remain vigilant", ensuring contact tracing and adequate diagnostics capacity.

Monkeypox symptoms include fever, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, exhaustion and a chickenpox-like rash on the hands and face.

No treatment exists, but the symptoms usually clear up after two to four weeks. The disease is considered endemic in 11 African nations.

According to the ECDC, the virus can cause severe disease among certain groups such as "young children, pregnant women and immunosuppressed persons".

The agency also pointed to the risk of "human-to-animal transmission", and said that if the virus is spread to animals "there is a risk that the disease could become endemic in Europe".

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