UAE health ministry confirms first case of monkeypox

Patient is a 29-year-old woman from West Africa who is receiving medical treatment

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Latest: UAE officials urge caution after first monkeypox case confirmed

The UAE has recorded its first case of the monkeypox virus, the country's health ministry said on Tuesday.

The patient is a 29-year-old woman from a West African nation — officials did not specify which — and she is receiving the necessary medical care, the Ministry of Health and Prevention said in a statement carried by state news agency Wam.

The ministry statement described the patient as a visitor to the UAE.

At the weekend, officials urged hospitals and health facilities nationwide to immediately report suspected cases for further investigation.

Over the past few days, several European and North American countries including Britain, France and the US have reported cases of the rare virus, which is endemic in parts of Africa.

Medical authorities have said, however, that the risk that the disease will spread widely is low.

No deaths have been reported to date.

In a bulletin on Wednesday, the World Health Organisation's Eastern Mediterranean office said the UAE's case was the first in the region it oversees, which includes the Middle East, North Africa, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Worldwide, as of 23 May, 131 confirmed cases have been reported from 18 countries across different WHO regions, with an additional 106 suspected cases being investigated.

“The situation is evolving and the WHO expects there will be more cases of monkeypox identified as surveillance expands in non-endemic countries,” WHO said.

What is Monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a virus that originates in wild animals such as rodents and primates and occasionally jumps to people. It belongs to the same virus family as smallpox.

Most human cases have been discovered in Central and West Africa and outbreaks have been relatively limited.

The illness was identified by scientists in 1958 when they discovered two outbreaks of a “pox-like” disease in research monkeys — which is where the virus gets its name. The first known human infection was in 1970 in a young boy in a remote part of Congo.

Undated handout file image issued by the UK Health Security Agency of the stages of monkeypox. Photo: UKHSA

What are the symptoms and how is it treated?

Most monkeypox patients experience fever, body aches, chills and fatigue. People with more serious illness may develop a rash and lesions on the face and hands that can spread to other parts of the body.

In general, recovery takes about two to four weeks without the need to be admitted to hospital, but monkeypox can be fatal in up to 6 per cent of cases and is thought to be more severe in children.

Smallpox vaccines are effective against monkeypox and antiviral drugs are also being developed.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control recommended all suspected cases be isolated and that high-risk contacts be offered a smallpox vaccine. The UK is offering high-risk contacts the smallpox vaccine and recommending anyone who might be infected to isolate until they recover.

The US has 1,000 doses of a vaccine approved for the prevention of monkeypox and smallpox, plus more than 100 million doses of an older-generation smallpox vaccine in a government stockpile, officials said.

How many monkeypox cases are there each year?

The WHO estimates there are thousands of monkeypox infections in about a dozen African countries every year. Most are in Congo, which reports about 6,000 cases annually, and Nigeria, with about 3,000 cases a year.

In the past, isolated cases of monkeypox have been spotted outside Africa, including in the US and Britain. The cases were mostly linked to travel in Africa or contact with animals from areas where the disease is more common.

In 2003, 47 people in six US states had confirmed or probable cases and caught the virus from pet prairie dogs that had been housed near imported small mammals from Ghana.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Updated: May 25, 2022, 3:06 PM