TALLINN - Chief of medicine and member of the management board of Kuressaare Hospital Edward Laane said that monkeypox may end up spreading extensively in Estonia and that preparations for it must be made, Postimees reports.
Two cases of monkeypox have been confirmed in Estonia this week. The Health Board said that both cases involve middle-aged men who have recently traveled to Europe and engaged in sexual risk behavior.
The Health Board told Postimees that the infected men have not been in close contact with each other and that both of them have been contacted by the agency.
"It is not completely clear how the virus is spreading during the current outbreak, the spread is being characterized as 'uncommon'," Laane said. He added that monkeypox can be transmitted by direct contact with with an infectious rash, blisters or body fluids, but also through respiratory secretions during prolonged direct face-to-face or intimate physical contact such as hugging, kissing or sex.
Even though monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted disease, European epidemiologists are increasingly highlighting that the virus is currently being transmitted through sexual contact.
"The diseases can be suspected in people who have traveled to at-risk areas or been in contact with a suspected carrier of monkeypox. In order to prevent infection, it is important to follow the general hygiene rules and avoid casual sexual contact," Kirsi Pruudel, media adviser at the Health Board, said. In case of suspected illness, the person needs to self-isolate and contact their family doctor or call an ambulance.
It is very important for the sick person to consult a doctor as soon as possible to determine the diagnosis and to avoid contact during the period when the person is infectious.
"With a confirmed case, it is necessary to identify all persons who were in close contact with the patient and monitor them during the entire incubation period, which lasts up to 21 days for monkeypox," Pruudel added
Based on a donation agreement, Estonia stands to receive the minimum amount of smallpox vaccine, that is 1,400 doses, free of charge. According to preliminary information, the vaccines should arrive in Estonia at the end of July.
"Our hospitals are undoubtedly ready to isolate and treat monkeypox patients. Should the virus be transmitted broadly, however, our medical system would be subjected to great pressure once more and we'd need to be prepared to limit planned treatment and see patients remotely," Laane said.
Laane noted that in parallel to monkeypox, Estonian hospitals also have to prepare for a new COVID-19 wave, adding that Estonia is in need of more medical staff.
"Dire shortage of medical specialists continues in Estonia, particularly in county hospitals. The alternative is to create or build a special hospital for infectious diseases where infected patients would be brought in for treatment from across the country; however, this hospital, too, would need new specially trained staff," he noted.
The World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Tuesday that 5,322 cases of monkeypox, 85 percent of them in Europe, have been laboratory-confirmed since the start of the outbreak.