Monkey pox commonly causes mild symptoms in the form of fever and rash, and is rarely fatal.
The virus has not yet been detected in Norway, but a person who visited Oslo in early May was diagnosed with the virus after returning to his home country. FHI and Oslo Municipality have therefore implemented infection tracking.
The virus is usually spread among small rodents in Africa, and can divide into two varieties: Central African, which is more severe, and West African, which gives milder symptoms.
It is the latter that has spread to people who have traveled to Europe, and further through close contact, explains assistant health director Espen Rostrup Nakstad to Dagbladet TV.
However, it does not lead to a new pandemic, he believes.
– It is not very contagious, and it is not a virus that is expected to cause a pandemic or major epidemic, says Nakstad.
But the virus can be serious for some:
– It is a disease that you absolutely do not want people to get, because someone can get seriously ill from it. So it is on the list of diseases you do not want to have in a country, says Nakstad.
Probably contagious throughout the phase
The incubation period for monkey pox ranges from about six to 16 days – perhaps up to three weeks, according to the assistant health director.
Like the childhood disease chickenpox, the monkey pox virus causes blisters on the skin. But the blisters are clear and larger than chickenpox, and develop rapidly throughout the body.
Most people get a fever, general malaise, lymph node swelling and a rash. The rash starts with spots which eventually turn into small lumps and then blisters that crack and then turn into crusts, writes FHI.
– After a few weeks, the skin is healed again, Nakstad explains.
Throughout the phase with symptoms, you will probably be contagious, says Nakstad.
According to FHI, most people are sick for two to four weeks.
Most people have a mild course of the disease and recover completely after a breakthrough illness, and the disease will go away on its own without treatment.
– Spread under the radar
So far, there are hundreds of suspected and proven cases in around ten countries, according to Nakstad.
He’s not worried anyway.
The reason is that people must have very close contact to be infected – probably skin to skin with a person who is ill and has blisters.
– If you get a fever or other symptoms, it is most likely something else you have had a monkey pox, says Nakstad.
The fact that the disease requires close close contact in order to become infected also makes it easier for the virus to stop spreading. Usually it is enough that close contacts isolate themselves at home.
Infection also requires close contact, which makes it easier to define close contacts.
– It seems that it has spread under the radar a few weeks already, so it probably requires a little more effort than you initially thought. If it appears in Norway, the infection tracking will be led by the municipality, with assistance from FHI, and they apply to be asked to stay at home, says Nakstad.
There are vaccines
– What about the danger that the virus can mutate?
– Monkey pox belongs to a group of viruses that are more stable than typical respiratory viruses, such as influenza, cold viruses and coronaviruses. So this is a completely different type of infectious disease that does not change as quickly, he replies.
Nor do people who do a lot of research on monkey cups or related viruses believe that there is an immediate danger that the virus will change significantly, says Nakstad.
Vaccines are also available.
Monkey pox is related to the virus that led to the infectious disease smallpox. After the introduction of the vaccines, the disease was eradicated in 1980, after spreading for hundreds of years.
– Vaccines used against smallpox in its time, and the vaccines that have been developed afterwards, also most likely work against monkey pox. At least it shows animal experiments, says Nakstad.
In Norway, one-year-olds were vaccinated against smallpox until 1976.
People who have been vaccinated with smallpox vaccine are therefore probably protected, as this vaccine provided lifelong protection against smallpox.
However, these are not vaccines you can get from your GP, says Nakstad.
No need to be vaccinated
According to the FHI, there is a common third-generation smallpox vaccine that provides protection against monkey smallpox. The vaccine is approved for use against monkey pox in the United States, but not in Europe.
FHI believes that there is no reason to take the vaccine because you have not been in contact with someone who is infected.
According to Nakstad, it is also not certain that people who have been in contact with an infected person will be vaccinated.
In addition, the antiviral drug is available for treatment.
– So there are many aids, but the best thing is that the virus is not so contagious.
On Monday, the European Infection Control Agency ECDC also says that they believe the risk of monkey pox spreading among the rest of the population in Europe is very low.
The World Health Organization (WHO) also believes that outbreaks can be limited in non-endemic areas and that the spread among humans can stop.