Three cases of monkeypox now confirmed in Belgium

Three cases of monkeypox now confirmed in Belgium
Virologist Marc Van Ranst at KU Leuven. Credit: Belga

Three cases of the monkeypox virus, which is advancing in Europe, have been detected in Belgium, specifically in Flanders.

The first case was detected in the province of Antwerp, and the person in question is not very ill. The second case of monkeypox was found in a sample from a man from Flemish Brabant, announced virologist Marc Van Ranst on Friday.

Later in the day, Federal Minister of Public Health, Frank Vandenbroucke, confirmed the third case in a statement giving an update of the situation in Belgium.

"At this stage, the cases reported in Europe are mostly mild, and no deaths have been reported. The evolution of the cases in Belgium is closely monitored," a statement from Vandenbroucke's cabinet read. An incubation period of 5 to 21 days is required, it added.

Van Ranst stressed that people who recognise themselves with symptoms such as the ones seen in the picture above should contact their doctor.

Severity of illness

The first case of the rare virus, of which outbreaks are usually limited to Africa, was confirmed by Isabel Brosius from the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp reports in the VRT News programme "Laat" on Thursday evening.

Although current data shows that the virus has limited transmissibility between people, infected persons are still asked to isolate themselves. "In principle, close and prolonged contact is needed.

The likelihood of a large spread is rather small, but we are monitoring the situation closely," Brosius said.

Initial symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, back pain, swollen lymph nodes and fatigue. A rash may appear, often on the face, and then spread to the rest of the body. The rash will change and goes through different stages until a scab appears.

"Most people recover within a few weeks. Exceptionally, these symptoms can be more severe. At this stage, the cases reported in Europe are mostly mild, and no deaths have been reported," Vandenbroucke's statement read.

Spreading in capital cities

On Thursday, as reported by The Brussels Times, it was confirmed that the monkeypox virus is advancing in Europe, with cases detected in the UK, Spain and Portugal, while it has also set foot in the US. No deaths have been recorded as a result of the virus so far.

There are currently over 40 suspected cases across three countries, of which nine in the UK, 23 in both Spain and five in Portugal, mainly concentrated in their capital cities.

In 7 out of 8 cases in the UK, the infection with the virus cannot be linked to recent travel to Africa, leading experts to suggest the patients involved caught the virus in Europe.

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The Flemish Agency for Care and Health said vigilance is needed, but that it is not yet worried about the general population, due to it not being very transmissible.

On Friday, the Risk Assessment Group, a group of experts, will meet to discuss a plan of approach. Virologist Marc Van Ranst told Belga News Agency he has been worried about this virus for years.

"But there is no reason to panic. This virus does require attention: it is important that it is publicised so that people recognise the symptoms better."

Find out more about monkeypox and what it is here.

Update: This article was updated to include that a second case of the monkeypox was detected in Belgium.

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