A viral infection called monkeypox seems to be spreading around Europe, with health authorities remaining cautious. 

As per The Guardian, Spain is on alert over a possible outbreak of the infection after 23 people showed related symptoms. All cases are in the Madrid area, but Spain’s health ministry said that a nationwide alert had been issued “to guarantee a swift, coordinated and timely response.”

According to the National Microbiology Centre, monkeypox is “spread by respiratory transmission”, adding that the characteristics of the 23 suspected infection cases seem to indicate that transmission is through “mucus during sexual relations.”

Spain’s outbreak comes after neighbouring Portugal confirmed five cases, with a further 15 suspected cases being investigated. Seven cases were also confirmed in the U.K., with the U.K. Health Security Agency stating that four of the most recent cases were men who identify as gay or bisexual or other men who have sex with men.

Symptoms of monkeypox include the following:

muscle aches
swollen lymph nodes
rash similar to chickenpox or syphilis

Monkeypox belongs to a family of viruses that includes smallpox. According to Dr. Ibrahima Socé Fall, the World Health Organisation’s assistant director-general for emergency response, said that a better understanding of how the virus spreads generally is needed, including in countries where it’s already endemic.

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The good news is that most infected people seem to recover within a few weeks, with the WHO saying that it’s only fatal for up to one in ten people.

Monkeypox also hasn’t yet spread to Australia, with the virus typically being found in Central and Western Africa. Despite there being over 6,000 reported cases in Congo and around 3,000 cases in Nigeria last year, there are still “so many unknowns in terms of the dynamics of transmission.”

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