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Experts forecast monkeypox cases to hit over 27,000 by August; around 70 cases confirmed in Ireland

DUBLIN: Around 70 cases of monkeypox have so far been confirmed in Ireland since the disease was first confirmed in the east of the country in May.

According to the World Health Organization, 16,000 confirmed monkeypox cases have been recorded in 75 countries so far this year.

Scientists advising the WHO on monkeypox say cases are currently doubling every two weeks, raising fears that it will take several months for the outbreak to peak. WHO Europe predicts more than 27,000 cases of monkeypox in 88 countries by August 2.

Ireland has already announced that people at high risk of monkeypox will be given the smallpox vaccine as a precautionary measure. The vaccine would be offered to gay and bisexual men, other men who have sex with men, as well as others at higher risk of unsafe exposure.

The plan is to administer two doses of smallpox vaccine 28 days apart as soon as possible to high-risk individuals. This is in accordance with the Interim Chief Medical Officer’s endorsement of the National Immunisation Advisory Committee’s (NIAC) recommendations.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said public health experts are watching the situation closely and extra vaccines have been procured. The minister said that this viral infection is different from Covid-19. “This is not in the realm of infectious disease that we’ve been dealing with for some time,” he said.

NIAC Director Dr Lucy Jessop said people who had been in close contact with people infected with monkeypox in Ireland had already received vaccinations. NIAC is currently working on plans to give the vaccine to high-risk groups, she said.

In response to the monkeypox outbreak, Europe’s Emergency Task Force (ETF) was already active to discuss available treatments and vaccines, as well as possible medical countermeasures.

The European Medicines Agency said there are currently two medicinal products authorized specifically for monkeypox in the European Union. “The medicine Tecovirimat SIGA is authorised for use to treat smallpox, monkeypox and cowpox. The vaccine Imvanex is authorised to protect adults against smallpox and monkeypox,” it said.

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