First Case of Monkeypox Confirmed in Slovenia, No Cause for Alarm

By , 24 May 2022, 13:01 PM Lifestyle
A view of Tenerife, one of the Canary Islands A view of Tenerife, one of the Canary Islands Lukas31 CC-by-0

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STA, 24 May 2022 - The first case of monkeypox has been confirmed in Slovenia in a man who arrived from the Canary Islands. The patient, who developed the symptoms after arriving in Slovenia, is doing well, the country's chief epidemiologist Mario Fafangel told the press on Tuesday.

Fafangel said Slovenia thus joined 16 other countries where the virus has been confirmed. International institutions, including the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), have already been notified, he said.

He stressed the monkeypox virus is not new and that unlike in the case of Covid its spreading could be stopped and had been stopped in several African countries in the past.

The risks for the broader society associated with the infection have been estimated as low by the WHO and the ECDC, he said.

According to Fafangel, contact tracing has been under way but no quarantine is envisaged for contacts, as a person can spread the disease only after they develop symptoms.

Tatjana Avšič Zupanc of the Institute of Microbiology and Immunology said their lab dealing with exotic viruses had been informed of suspected monkeypox infection in Slovenia yesterday afternoon.

She said the lab had prepared protocols for the monkeypox virus as it started spreading in other countries earlier this month.

The diagnosis was confirmed with three PCR tests, she said, adding that the sample was now being sequenced to determine its nucleotide sequence.

Out of the two variants of the virus - the west African and central African - the former, which has been spreading recently, is milder. The man in Slovenia is infected with this variant, Avšič Zupanc confirmed.

UKC Ljubljana Department of Infectious Diseases, Tatjana Lejko Zupanc said no major complications were expected with infection with this version. However, the disease might pose a greater risk to persons with compromised immune system, pregnant women and small children.

The infected man is not hospitalised, Lejko Zupanc said.

Infected persons are recommended to stay at home and avoid close contact with risky groups as well as with their pets for three weeks or until their scabs fall off, she said. If the person is going out they should wear a facemask.

Heath workers wear similar protective equipment as with Covid when dealing with infected patients, she noted.

Currently, two vaccines are available to prevent the disease; one is the smallpox vaccine, which is also effective against monkeypox, and the other which is registered for monkeypox as well as smallpox.

Lejko Zupanc said that at this point it would perhaps make sense to vaccinate lab workers. Talks on the supply of a vaccine, if it were needed, are under way.

One medication is registered for treating monkeypox - tecovirimat, which is not available in Europe at the moment, but talks are under way for small quantities if they were needed, she said. An alternative medication, cidofovir, is already available.

Mojca Gobec, head of the sector for prevention of disease and injuries at the Health Ministry, said the ministry was monitoring the situation and would adopt measures if necessary.

Experts have already proposed that monkeypox be included on the list of occupational diseases, which will enable its monitoring and better communication with international organisations, she said.

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