Photo courtesy

Cynthia S. Goldsmith and Russell Legnery, CDC / Wikimedia Commons

The two men who recently traveled to Europe were the first people to be diagnosed with monkeypox in Iceland. Neither individual is a serious illness, but Vísir reports that they are contagious and isolated.

The first test sample has been sent abroad for confirmation, but the Department of Health believes that positive results are likely to have been accurate. Chief epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason says he expects more cases to be diagnosed in the next few days, but the epidemic is unlikely.

Symptoms and transmission

It may take several weeks after infection before the symptoms of monkeypox begin to appear. According to the Department of Health, fever, chills, headache, and malaise are usually the first symptoms, followed by an itchy rash and swollen lymph nodes.

Þórólfur states that it is important for people with characteristic symptoms (especially genital acne and blisters) to contact their healthcare provider for prompt examination and diagnosis.

The virus spreads through close, extended physical contact and respiratory droplets. It can also remain infectious on the surface and can be transmitted through inanimate objects such as clothing, towels and bedding.

Monkeypox does not spread as easily as COVID and can be prevented by taking appropriate precautions. Severe cases are rare, but the symptoms are painful and can cause scarring. Avoiding prolonged physical contact with strangers, especially when traveling abroad, is also important to prevent infection.

Individuals who may have been exposed to the virus should be quarantined for 3 weeks, as directed by the Department of Health. Infected people should be quarantined until the rash has healed. This can take up to 4 weeks.

As of June 2, there were 780 confirmed cases of monkeypox in 27 non-epidemic countries, according to the World Health Organization. The most cases have been recorded in the United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal, Canada and Germany. There are 12 African countries where monkeypox is endemic to either humans or animals.

Possibility of vaccination

Vaccines against monkeypox are not yet available in Europe. However, two vaccines are available for smallpox in the United States and may provide some protection against monkeypox. The Department of Health says it is working to make these vaccines available in Iceland, especially for people with immunodeficiency and medical professionals.

Smallpox is a closely related virus that was officially eradicated in 1980, according to the World Health Organization. Iceland stopped vaccination against smallpox in 1978.

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