Preventive vaccination best option to limit monkey pox

Preventive vaccination best option to limit monkey pox
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Credit: Belga

People most at risk of contracting monkeypox should be be vaccinated against the disease, according to a preliminary study by Belgium's Institute of Tropical Medicine (ITM), published last Thursday.

"We have made a mathematical model, just like with COVID," said Christophe Van Dijck of ITM. "In those models, we see the impact of the different approaches to vaccination. However, there is currently little data and information about monkeypox, which is a limitation."

Van Dijck's team were nevertheless able to draw important conclusions. The study highlighted the difficulty of stopping infections through contact tracing, as people don't keep track of exactly who they have had high-risk contact with. Therefore, a preventative vaccine is the best solution.

"That is at least as efficient and perhaps more efficient than just vaccinating high-risk contacts," added Van Dijck. His team's conclusion supports the initiative of the government's Risk Management Group which focuses on preventive vaccination. Currently, there are "only" 3,000 vaccines available although some 30,000 additional vaccines have been ordered.

Previously, it was thought that the best method was for those infected with monkeypox to quickly report it to a doctor. Yet this may not be the most efficient process as not everyone recognises or develops the typical skin lesions or characteristics of the disease, allowing the virus to continue spreading undetected.

The study has not yet been peer reviewed, although the researchers are confident in the findings.

How to stop monkeypox spreading

Monkeypox spreads from one person to another by direct skin-to-skin contact, including through sexual contact. The disease can also spread through coming into contact with objects that an infected person has touched, as well as through respiratory secretions.

A person with monkeypox can spread it from the time symptoms start until the rash has fully healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed. The illness typically lasts two to four weeks.

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Smallpox and monkeypox vaccines are an effective protection before exposure to the virus and can also reduce the severity of the symptoms.

Men who have sex with men are currently at the highest risk of infection, according to the WHO. 99% of monkeypox cases are among men; at least 95% of those patients are men who have sex with other men.

WHO leader Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that men who have sex with men should consider limiting the number of people they have sex with. Ghebreyesus has also called for the media and tech companies to fight stigma and discrimination surrounding the virus.

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