(CMR) Spain had two monkeypox-related deaths over the weekend, recording the first confirmed fatalities from the disease in Europe since its recent spread outside Africa. Both fatalities were young men.
The deaths come one week after the World Health Organization declared the monkeypox outbreak a global health emergency.
According to the Associated Press, the global monkeypox outbreak has seen more than 22,000 cases in nearly 80 countries since May. There have been 75 suspected deaths in Africa, mainly in Nigeria and Congo, where a more lethal form of monkeypox is spreading than in the West.
In the U.S. and Europe, the vast majority of monkeypox infections have happened in men who have sex with men, though health officials have stressed that anyone can catch the virus, AP reported.
“The notification of deaths due to monkeypox does not change our assessment of the outbreak in Europe. We know that although the disease is self-limiting in most cases, monkeypox can cause severe complications,” said Catherine Smallwood, Senior Emergency Officer at WHO Europe.
“With the continued spread of monkeypox in Europe, we will expect to see more deaths. Our goal needs to be on interrupting transmission quickly in Europe and stopping this outbreak,” she said.
Spain’s health ministry reported 4,298 people were infected with the virus up to last Friday, making it the leading European country for monkeypox cases. Some 3,500 cases were of men who had sex with other men, while only 64 were women, according to AP.
Monkeypox spreads mainly through skin-to-skin contact, but it can also be transmitted through bed sheets used by someone with monkeypox. Symptoms include fever, body aches, chills, fatigue, and hives. The illness has been relatively mild but can be contagious for weeks, and the lesions can be extremely painful.