Monkeypox outbreak: Cases in Portugal rise to 74

Written By Lara Silva

As of Friday, there are 74 confirmed cases of monkeypox in Portugal, a 50% increase since Tuesday, according to the Directorate-General of Health of Portugal (DGS). Since Thursday, there are 16 more confirmed cases of monkeypox, known as “variola dos macacos”. The cases remain stable and are being accompanied by health care professionals.

The DGS announced that most of the infections were found in Lisbon and Vale do Tejo, but some have also been registered in the north of Portugal and the Algarve. It is also known that “all the confirmed infections are in men between the ages of 23 and 61, with most being under 40”.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported nearly 200 cases of monkeypox in 20 countries that are not known to have outbreaks of the disease. The WHO has stated that this epidemic is “containable”, proposing the creation of a stockpile that allows countries to equitably share the limited vaccines and drugs worldwide.

Experts still do not know what triggered the outbreak of monkeypox outside of Africa, according to the UN health agency. However, there is no evidence that genetic changes in the virus occurred and are responsible for its spread.

A leading advisor to the WHO told the Associated Press that the main theory to explain the spread of monkeypox outside of Africa was “sexual transmission at raves held in Spain and Belgium”. Nevertheless, scientists will find it difficult to figure out whether monkeypox has spread through sex or just close contact, according to the Associated Press.

Spain now has the highest number of monkeypox cases in Europe with 98 confirmed cases, including one woman. Cases have mostly been among men who have sex with men, according to Spanish authorities. LGBTQ groups in Spain are worried the spread of monkeypox will fuel stigma and homophobia, a sentiment that has also been shared in Portugal.

Mario Blázquez, the coordinator of health programs for the LGBTQ group COGAM in Madrid, told the Associated Press on Friday that “this is a disease that any member of the population can get,” Blázquez said. “We are facing an outbreak that unfortunately once again has hit LGBTQ people and especially gay and bisexual men. What’s happening is somewhat similar to the first cases of HIV.”

The WHO has also said that “stigmatizing people because of a disease is never ok. Anyone can get or pass on monkeypox, regardless of their sexuality”. The WHO says that while “monkeypox is not limited to men who have sex with men”, it has targeted a public health advice document for gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men to “ensure that as few people as possible are affected”. The WHO has also warned that “transgender people and gender-diverse people may also be more vulnerable in the context of the current outbreak”.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Monkeypox

How did monkeypox start?

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).

How does monkeypox spread? Is monkeypox contagious?

Monkeypox spreads through close contact with someone who has symptoms. Clothing, bedding, towels, or objects that have been contaminated with monkeypox can infect others. The virus can also spread through saliva as ulcers, lesions, or sores in the mouth can be infectious. According to the WHO, this means that people who have close contact with someone infected, such as health workers, household members, and sexual partners are at greater risk.

What are the symptoms of monkeypox?

Margarida Tavares, the director of the National Program for STDs and HIV for DGS 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.

Why are gay and bisexual men getting monkeypox?

Monkeypox is not limited to men who have sex with men, anyone can get monkeypox, regardless of their sexuality, according to the WHO. It is still not clear why there is a higher proportion of cases among men who have sex with men. The LGBT correspondent to the BBC, Lauren Moss says: “As monkeypox is often caught through direct contact, once it’s introduced to a community, it is more likely to spread through that community among those who are in close contact with each other – for example, within a household or among sexual partners”.

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