The Directorate-General of Health of Portugal (DGS) has told CNN that the five cases of monkeypox identified in Portugal constitute an outbreak. Margarida Tavares, the director of the National Program for STDs and HIV for DGS said on Wednesday in a press conference that “we can use the word outbreak because we can mention an outbreak anytime there is an increase in cases above what we expected. We did not expect any case in Portugal. If we have 5 confirmed cases we can mention an outbreak”.
The 5 cases of monkeypox in Portugal were confirmed in Lisbon and Vale do Tejo. The authorities do not yet know the origin of the infections and the cases are not related. According to Margarida Tavares, the cases were all identified in STD clinics and all those infected are men. The cases are all mild and none of the infected men have been hospitalized.
Although only 5 cases have been confirmed, DGS has confirmed that there are over 20 suspected cases in the month of May in the region of Lisbon and Vale do Tejo.
Monkeypox can be transmitted via broken skin like a wound, the respiratory tract, or the mucous membranes (eyes, nose, or mouth). Margarida Tavares has told the public to look out for symptoms such as fever, myalgia, headaches, and skin or mucosal lesions.
According to the WHO, within 1 to 3 days after the appearance of fever, infected people often begin developing a rash. Monkeypox usually lasts between 2 to 4 weeks.
Monkeypox is a rare disease that is caused by the infection of the monkeypox virus and was first discovered in 1958 in colonies of monkeys. The first human case was recorded in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) was the first to report a case of monkeypox in Europe. They have stated that those infected all self-identify as gay, bisexual, or other men who have sex with men. Dr. Susan Hopkins, the agency’s chief medical adviser, has said “we are particularly urging men who are gay and bisexual to be aware of any unusual rashes or lesions and to contact a sexual health service without delay”.
However, many Portuguese LGBT+ activities have criticized this framing, stating that monkeypox can spread in humans regardless of sexual orientation and many are making references to the media’s rhetoric during the AIDS crisis. Renato Duarte from Renascença Radio posted an Instagram post that said “establishing a cause and effect relationship between the virus and the LGBTQIA+ community is dangerous, irresponsible, and immoral. It has no scientific backup and contributes to the stigma… No type of infectious virus is exclusive to individuals from a sexual orientation”. He also argued that it is in fact dangerous to send this message, allowing for a false sense of immunity among heterosexual individuals.