Two men who recently travelled to Europe are the first people in Iceland to be diagnosed with monkeypox. Neither individual is seriously ill, though they are both contagious and in isolation, reports Vísir.
The initial test samples are being sent overseas for confirmation, but the Directorate of Health believes it highly likely the positive results were accurate. Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason says he expects further cases to be diagnosed in the coming days, but an epidemic is unlikely.
Symptoms and transmission
It may take several weeks between the time of infection and when an individual begins to show symptoms of monkeypox. Fever, chills, headache and malaise are usually the first symptoms, followed by an itching rash and swollen lymph nodes, according to the Directorate of Health.
Þórólfur says it is critical for individuals with any characteristic symptoms — pimples or blisters, especially on the genitals — to contact their healthcare provider to get tested and diagnosed quickly.
The virus is spread through close and extended physical contact and respiratory droplets. It can also remain infectious on surfaces, and thus can be transmitted via inanimate objects like clothing, towels and bedding.
Monkeypox does not spread as easily as COVID, and infection can be prevented by taking proper precautions. Severe cases are rare, but the symptoms can be painful and result in scarring. Avoiding prolonged physical contact with strangers, specifically while travelling abroad, is also important to prevent transmission.
Individuals who may have been exposed to the virus should isolate for three weeks, according to Directorate of Health instructions. Infected individuals must isolate until their rash is healed, which can take up to four weeks.
As of June 2, there were 780 confirmed cases of monkeypox in 27 non-endemic countries, according to the World Health Organization. The greatest number of cases have been recorded in the United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal, Canada and Germany. There are 12 African countries where monkeypox is endemic in either humans or animals.
A vaccine against monkeypox is not available in Europe yet. However, there are two vaccines available in the United States for smallpox, which may offer some protection against monkeypox. The Directorate of Health says it is working to make these vaccines available in Iceland, especially for individuals who are immunocompromised and healthcare professionals.
Smallpox is a closely-related virus that was officially eradicated in 1980, according to the World Health Organization. Iceland stopped smallpox vaccinations in 1978.
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