Nine Infected with Monkeypox, Vaccine En Route from Denmark

Nine people had been diagnosed with monkeypox in Iceland as of last week. RÚV reports that Iceland has still not received its own shipment of the monkeypox vaccine and so will be borrowing vaccines from Denmark in the meantime.

In an interview on Wednesday, Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason said there was no indication that the monkeypox epidemic is on the decline. Around 14,000 people have been diagnosed with the disease worldwide, 8,000 of whom are in the European Union and 2,000 of whom are in the UK.

“The figures are going up. There’s nothing that indicates that this on the decline. So every country is just preparing to offer vaccination and even antivirals when they get them,” said Þórólfur.

Þórólfur added that Iceland is receiving a loan of 40 vaccine doses from Denmark, as the country  is still awaiting its vaccine allotment from the European Union.

“It’s not clear when they will arrive,” said Þórólfur, “but it shouldn’t be long now.”

First Cases of Monkeypox Likely Diagnosed in Iceland

Chief Epidemiologist Iceland Þórólfur Guðnason

Two middle-aged men were diagnosed with monkeypox in Iceland yesterday on an initial test, according to a notice from the Directorate of Health. Samples will be sent abroad as soon as possible to confirm the diagnosis. There is an overwhelming probability that the diagnosis is correct. The infection can be traced to a trip to Europe and neither of the men is seriously ill.

“Monkey pox is not a highly contagious viral disease, but is transmitted mainly through close and prolonged contact such as sexual intercourse but also through droplets from the airway. Infections can also be transmitted through clothing, towels, and bedding,” the notice explains.

A person with monkeypox can be contagious for up to three weeks, with the risk of infection ending when the last blister on the skin has healed. While the person is contagious, they need to be in isolation. People exposed to the infection need to be for up to three weeks.

The Directorate of Health encourages anyone who experiences an outbreak of bumps or blisters on the skin, especially on or near the genitals to go into isolation and contact the National Hospital’s Dermatology and Sexual Infection Ward, the Infectious Diseases Ward, or their local health clinic for further advice on diagnosis and treatment. The Directorate of health encourages people to avoid close contact with strangers, including sex, especially during their travels abroad.

“The main way to prevent the widespread spread of monkey pox in Iceland is to avoid the transmission routes/risks that can lead to infection and to seek diagnosis as early in the disease’s development as possible.”

The Ministry of Health, in consultation with the Icelandic Medicines Agency, is working to obtain antiviral drugs and vaccines that could benefit selected individuals against the infection.

Iceland Likely to Procure Monkeypox Vaccine, Deems General Inoculation Unnecessary

Iceland will likely participate in the European Union’s joint scheme to purchase and procure doses of Imvanex to use in cases of monkeypox infection, RÚV reports. At time of writing, no cases of monkeypox have been diagnosed in Iceland. After exploring its procurement options, the Ministry of Health says it monkeypox vaccinations would be administered to people who have been exposed to the virus and perhaps other select groups, but says that general vaccination against the virus is unnecessary.

According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, “there is a multi-country outbreak of monkeypox affecting the UK, EU/EEA states, and North America. This is the first time that chains of transmission are reported in Europe without known epidemiological links to West or Central Africa.” As perhaps obvious from the name, monkeypox was first found in monkeys and is spread through close contact, although it is not typically spread easily amongst humans.

The current outbreak (roughly 200 cases globally) extends to 20 countries in which monkeypox is not endemic, and is causing concern because the virus rarely spreads outside of West and Central Africa. Its symptoms include fever, headache, chills, exhaustion, asthenia, lymph node swelling, back pain and muscle aches.

Luckily, existing smallpox vaccinations are effective against monkeypox. Danish biotech company Bavarian Nordic is one of the few in the world to have approval for its smallpox vaccine, known as Imvanex in Europe and Jynneos in the United States. Iceland would receive a proportional allocation of the vaccine that the EU purchases for countries participating in the scheme, just like it did with the COVID-19 vaccine.