Israel Confirms First Case of Monkeypox Virus

The first case of monkeypox in Israel was detected in a man in his 30s, who recently travelled to Western Europe. In the past week, several European countries and the U.S. also reported cases of the virus

Head of the Institute of Microbiology of the German Armed Forces Roman Woelfel works in his laboraty in Munich, on Friday, after Germany has detected its first case of monkeypox.
Head of the Institute of Microbiology of the German Armed Forces Roman Woelfel works in his laboraty in Munich, on Friday, after Germany has detected its first case of monkeypox.Credit: CHRISTINE UYANIK/ REUTERS

The first case of monkeypox has been discovered in Israel, the Health Ministry confirmed on Saturday.

Tel Aviv's Ichilov Hospital said a man in his 30s who recently returned from Western Europe arrived at the emergency room with symptoms of the disease on Friday, and the tests turned out positive the following day.

He was admitted into quarantine once suspicion of the disease arose, and is currently in a good condition.

Israel's Health Ministry calls on any person entering Israel who experiences fever and a blistering rash to see a doctor.

Israel's pandemic response team met Saturday for a situation assessment. Following the meeting the Health Ministry said it will be looking into purchasing vaccines and the relevant medications as well as regulating testing procedures as infection rates grow.

During the discussion it was stressed that despite reports from Europe that many of the infected patients are homosexual men, the disease is in no way related to sexual preference and is not unique to any one sector of the public.

Cases of the smallpox-related disease have previously been seen only among people with links to central and West Africa. But in the past week, Britain, Spain, Portugal, Italy, U.S., Sweden and Canada all reported infections, mostly in young men who hadn’t previously traveled to Africa. France, Germany, Belgium and Australia confirmed their first cases of monkeypox on Friday.

Monkeypox is milder than smallpox, and is accompanied by flu-like symptoms, including fever and chills, as well as a rash of blisters appearing on the face or genitals. It is a viral disease which has so far been endemic to mainly Africa and is known to be less contagious in human-to-human transmission.

Illness typically lasts between two and four weeks, with patients usually recovering on their own. The smallpox vaccine – which was routinely given in Israel until the 1980s – is 85 percent effective against the virus. Moreover, drugs that were initially developed for treatment of smallpox can be used to treat those suffering from monkeypox.

According to Prof. Ran Balicer, the head of HMO Clalit’s Research Institute, “the first days and weeks after the appearance of a new disease are fraught with uncertainty and immersed in a ‘fog of war’ regarding the most basic question – such as the degree of contagiousness and virulence and the potential for it turning into a pandemic."

Balicer says it will take a few weeks before the medical community knows if there is reason for concern, based on the potential spread of the virus, the severity of illness in those infected, and the risk of transmission before an infected individual begins to display symptoms.

A member of Israel's epidemic management team, Dr. Leon Poles, says there is no risk of a monkeypox epidemic or mass infection, as the disease is not contagious to the extent of COVID-19 or German measles, for example. Transmission occurs through more direct contact, including skin-to-skin contact, or touching the sheets, or towels of an infected person.

Yet, Poles says there is potential for transmission among youth who have not been vaccinated against smallpox.

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