Germany has ordered 40,000 doses of a Bavarian Nordic BAVA.CO vaccine to be ready to vaccinate contacts of those infected with monkeypox if an outbreak in Germany becomes more severe, but officials are banking on other precautionary measures for now.
Speaking at a press conference, German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said on Tuesday that measures such as an isolation period of at least 21 days recommended for infected people would suffice for now to contain the outbreak.
"If infections spread further we will want to be prepared for possible ring vaccinations that are not yet recommended at this point but might become necessary," said Lauterbach, referring to the strategy of vaccinating contacts of an infected person.
So far, five cases have been registered in Germany, all men, said Lothar Wieler, the head of Germany's Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases, also speaking at the press conference.
A World Health Organization official on Monday issued similar guidance, saying the outbreak does not require mass vaccinations because measures like hygiene and safe sexual behaviour will help control the spread.
WHO says monkeypox outbreak "containable"
The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday there have been 131 confirmed monkeypox cases and 106 further suspected cases since the first was reported on May 7 outside the countries where it usually spreads.
While the outbreak is unusual, it remains "containable" and limited, the WHO said, and it is convening further meetings to support member states with more advice on how to tackle the situation.
Monkeypox is a usually mild viral infection that is endemic in parts of west and central Africa. It spreads chiefly through close contact, and until the recent outbreak has only rarely been seen in other parts of the world. The majority of the recent cases have been reported in Europe.
"We encourage you all to increase the surveillance of monkeypox to see where transmission levels are and understand where it is going," said Sylvie Briand, WHO director for Global Infectious Hazard Preparedness.
We encourage you all to increase the surveillance of monkeypox to see where transmission levels are and understand where it is going.Sylvie Briand, WHO director for Global Infectious Hazard Preparedness
She said it was unclear if the cases were the "tip of the iceberg" or if the peak in transmission has already passed.
Speaking at the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Briand reiterated WHO's view that it is unlikely that the virus has mutated but said that transmission may be being driven by a change in human behavior, particularly as people return to socializing as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted worldwide.
Many, but not all, of the cases have been reported in men who have sex with men, and Briand said it was particularly important to try to prevent sexual transmission.
Symptoms include a fever and a distinctive bumpy rash. The West African strain of monkeypox, which is the one identified in the current outbreak, has a mortality rate of around 1%.
While she said the outbreak was "not normal," she stressed that it was "containable." There are also vaccines and treatments available for monkeypox, she added, calling for appropriate containment measures, more research, and global collaboration.
Monkeypox in in Europe
Slovenia, the Czech Republic and the United Arab Emirates reported their first cases of the virus on Tuesday.
In Madrid Spaind Health authorities said they detected 11 confirmed new cases of monkeypox on Tuesday, bringing the total cases in Spain to 48, practically all in the capital city.
In neighboring Portugal, which along with Spain has been one of the main hotspots of the recent outbreak of the viral disease outside its endemic areas in Africa, health authorities added two confirmed cases, putting the total at 39.
Let's not make a mountain out of a molehill.Sylvie Briand, WHO director for Global Infectious Hazard Preparedness
The French National Authority for Health (HAS) said on Tuesday it recommended starting a targeted vaccination campaign to fight monkeypox.
The HAS said it recommended that as soon as a confirmed case of monkeypox has been discovered, vaccination should be given to adults who have been in contact with the patient and who are considered to be at risk.
Monkeypox in Israel
The first case of the disease in Israel was reported on Friday night and confirmed a day later following diagnostic tests.
The Health Ministry quickly reassured the public that Israel is not dealing with a second COVID-19-style pandemic, with Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz taking to Twitter, explaining that “this is a disease, not a pandemic.”
Shira Silkoff contributed to this report.