First case of monkeypox hits Czechia, and health authorities say it’s unclear if smallpox vaccination is effective

This 1997 image provided by CDC, shows the right arm and torso of a patient, whose skin displayed a number of lesions due to what had been an active case of monkeypox. (CDC via AP)
By Kristýna Čtvrtlíková
3 Min Read

The first case of monkeypox was confirmed in the Czech Republic, according to a press release releaed on Tuesday from the National Institute of Public Health (SZÚ). The infected man visited the Antwerp Music Festival in Belgium at the beginning of May.

The National Reference Laboratory for Influenza and Non-Influenza Viral Diseases under SZÚ states that this is a preliminary confirmation because the sample was examined by electron microscopy on Tuesday morning. According to the head of the laboratory Helena Jiřincová, it is necessary to do a whole genome sequencing or PCR method for the final confirmation. The results will be known next week. The laboratory received three samples, which it is now processing.

Immediately after the suspicion of the monkeypox infection, the Prague hygiene station launched an epidemiological investigation to find out the possible risk of contact with patients and set up anti-epidemic measures for them, especially quarantine.

“A positively-tested man, after returning from Belgium, began to notice the first non-specific symptoms from red to watery eyes, through the gradual occurrence of higher body temperatures from 37.5 to 39 degrees Celsius, to the sowing of painful pimples on the skin resembling acne on certain parts of the body. They turned into cracking blisters, which stopped hurting after the rupture,” said Zdeňka Shumová, Prague hygiene chief.

Monkeypox is a rare viral disease similar to smallpox but usually has milder manifestations. According to experts, for the disease to spread, it requires long-term and close contact.

The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) stated on Tuesday that the risk of widespread infection in the population was “very improbable” but “increased” in people with multiple sexual partners. In Europe, the disease has occurred, for example, in Denmark, Scotland, Spain, Italy, Slovenia, and Austria.

According to the Czech health ministry, there is no data on whether smallpox vaccines protect against monkeypox, however, it is believed to potentially be effective due to the similarity of the virus.

“Data on the efficacy of the original Imvanex vaccine used in Czechoslovakia for monkeypox is not available. People vaccinated until 1980 have virtually no protection,” Roman Chlíbek, chairman of the Czech Vaccinology Society, told news outlet.

Monkeypox is endemic to Central and West Africa and, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), can spread to other parts of the world.

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