Italian monkeypox cases have risen to three, the Lazio regional health authority said Friday. The men are all being treated at Italy’s premier infectious disease hospital, the Spallanzani National Institute of Infectious Diseases in Rome, it stated. The latest two cases are linked to patient zero, it said. Spallanzani Director General Francesco Vaia said “the first message to give is that there should be no alarm; the situation must be kept under control but it does not arouse alarm”. He said the three people affected “are in fairly good health conditions, only one had a brief fever and all have their lymph glands swollen and apparently painful, as well as the appearance of a limited number of small localized pustules.”
He said they were being treated for their symptoms, but anti-viral drugs were at the institute’s disposal, should they be needed. Vaia said the Spallanzani will have isolated the virus by next week. Spallanzani experts stated at a press conference that “human-to-human transmission characterizes most of the cases detected. You can’t define it as a sexually transmitted disease regarding homosexuals specifically. At the moment, we know it concerns close contacts.”
Lazio regional health councillor Alessio D’Amato told the press “the situation is absolutely under control” and that some 30 contacts had been screened before finding the two new cases. The first case of monkey smallpox, or monkeypox, has been identified in Italy in a man who returned from a stay in the Canary Islands and presented himself with smallpox symptoms to Rome’s Umberto I Hospital, sources said Thursday.
Monkeypox was first discovered in 1958 when two outbreaks of a pox-like disease occurred in colonies of monkeys kept for research, hence the name ‘monkeypox.’ The first human case of monkeypox was recorded in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo during a period of intensified effort to eliminate smallpox. Since then, monkeypox has been reported in humans in other central and western African countries. The World Health Organization said it was monitoring the “quickly evolving situation” after reported cases in Britain, Spain and the United States since the start of May, as well as the Italian case, plus two other suspected cases in Italy.
The WHO stated that travel or trade restrictions with the UK had so far been ruled out. Italy’s Higher Health Institute (ISS) on Thursday set up a task force of experts and contacted its ‘sentinel’ network of sexually transmitted disease centres in order to “continually monitor the national situation” following the cases of monkeypox. The ISS said regional health authorities had been alerted but there was so far no cause for alarm. The institute urged caution “in close relations or sexual relations” that involved an exchange of bodily fluids and stressed the importance of the role of its sexual infection centers.
Health Minister Roberto Speranza said “we are keeping the level of attention high thanks to our European and national networks of surveillance.” He said that at the ongoing G7 health ministers meeting, he had spoken to European Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides and the other ministers about the monkeypox situation. Speranza said that the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and HERA, the Health Emergency Preparedness and Response department, would be asked to follow the cases. The ECDC said so far there had been five cases in Portugal and seven in the UK as of Wednesday, as well as eight suspected cases in Spain. In Portugal , it said, there were a further 20 suspected cases and all the cases regarded young men in Lisbon and the Tago Valley.
Health Undersecretary Pierpaolo Sileri told ANSA that “maximum attention” was needed but there should be “no alarm.” He said “people should contact their doctors if specific symptoms appear.” Most of the cases appear to involve gay men. In Britain, Health Minister Sajid Javid said Friday there had been another 11 cases bringing the total there to 20, and the course of the illness was “slight in the majority of cases.”