HSE to issue advice for groups at risk of monkeypox

HSE to issue advice for groups at risk of monkeypox

 A health professional prepares a dose of a Monkeypox vaccine at the Edison municipal vaccination centre in Paris.

The HSE will issue advice on vaccination to groups who are most at risk from contracting monkeypox in the coming weeks, the head of Ireland's national immunisation programmes has said.

This comes as new EU figures show 13,022 cases in the region since the start of this outbreak, with 797 over the last week across 21 countries including Ireland.

No further deaths in Europe have been reported, following the two people who died in Spain last month, European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention and Control (ECDC) data shows.

Spain has the highest number of cases among EU countries at 4,577.

New cases

The HSE’s move follows calls made on Thursday to speed up rollout of the smallpox vaccine to at-risk groups. There have now been 97 cases in Ireland, including 12 newly infected people in the last week.

Vaccines are already being offered to close contacts of confirmed cases. 

Director of the HSE's National Immunisation Office Dr Lucy Jessop said they are still working on the rollout to high-risk groups, including how to identify who is most at risk.

"For a while now we've been working with various community partners like Man2Man ... to develop a communications campaign and that has been ongoing for some time, to raise awareness in the community about the symptoms, the importance of presenting to healthcare early, and effective advice on prevention of monkeypox,” she said.

"We would like to have information out in the next few weeks," she said of the information campaign.

Communication

Dr Jessop added they had not yet worked out whether at-risk individuals will be directly contacted or whether they would have to respond individually to public campaigns. 

"In terms of people who are particularly at risk of this disease, it's people who have multiple sexual partners, including some groups of men who have sex with men, but in terms of the risk to the broader population, that risk is very low, so it isn't a vaccine programme that will be offered more widely than that," she said. 

She added: "We have a relatively stable number of new cases being notified each week over the past few weeks, so it isn't increasing at any alarming rate, it is staying relatively stable."

Smallpox vaccine

The smallpox vaccine, also effective against monkeypox, is being offered to groups who are at high-risk of contracting the virus including gay and bisexual men and other men who have sex with men, as well as other people at high risk of exposure. 

This follows advice from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) last week.

Among the Irish cases so far, all are male with a median age of 36.

Rates of illness are rising more rapidly in other regions, with America on Thursday declaring monkeypox a public health emergency. 

New British data shows up to Thursday there were 2,768 confirmed cases with a further 91 probably cases, according to the UK Health Security Agency. 

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