Israel confirms first communal spread of monkeypox

The Health Ministry on Monday announced three new monkeypox cases, including the first confirmed instance of community spread in Israel.

According to a ministry statement, the three cases were all among men from central Israel who are aged between 30 and 60.

The ministry did not give any further details about the case of the man infected in Israel nor specify in which countries the other two men were believed to have contracted monkeypox.

With the new diagnoses, there have been a total of nine cases of the rare disease confirmed in Israel. The first case was confirmed on May 20.

“The Health Ministry notes that anyone who develops a fever or blistering after returning from overseas or was in close contact with someone suspected of being sick with monkeypox should speak to a doctor,” the Health Ministry statement said.

The announcement of the new cases came as the World Health Organization is due on June 23 to hold an emergency meeting to determine whether to classify the global monkeypox outbreak as a public health emergency of international concern.

The designation is the highest alarm the UN agency can sound.

Until the past few months, monkeypox had generally been confined to Western and Central Africa. It is now present in several continents.

The majority — 84 percent — of confirmed cases are from the European region, followed by the Americas, Africa, Eastern Mediterranean region and Western Pacific region.

The WHO believes the actual number of cases is likely higher.

Israeli health officials have played down the risk of the virus, with a top health official urging calm in a briefing last month and saying the recent cases were not a major risk to public health.

Monkeypox usually clears up after two to four weeks, according to the WHO. A case of the virus was diagnosed in Israel in 2018, and no known community infections resulted from it.

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