The HSE has announced that the first monkeypox case in the Republic of Ireland has been confirmed. It was also stated that a second suspected case is being investigated, with results pending.
The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HSPC) was notified of the first case on the eve of Saturday, May 28, in what is not an unexpected development. Over the past number of weeks, there have been reports of over two hundred cases worldwide, including one in Northern Ireland. Other affected areas include the UK, EU, North America, Australia, Israel, and the United Arab Emirates.
The person infected in the Republic has not been hospitalised and is located in the east of the country. “In order to maintain patient confidentiality, no further information about this person will be provided,” the HSE said, and it added that the organisation is following up with any close contacts who have also been advised on what to do if they fall ill.
When the international alert was first raised, the HSE established a multidisciplinary Incident Management Team (IMT) which continues to actively monitor the situation. Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly confirmed that “The HSE has secured what they are calling third-generation smallpox vaccine,” and that “It is coming into the country.” He added that there is no need to be alarmed.
Some outlets are reporting that the disease so far has disproportionately affected gay and bisexual men who have sex with men (gbMSM), with the UN AIDS agency (UNAIDS) warning against using stigmatising language described as “racist and homophobic”.
Deputy executive director of the agency, Matthew Kavanagh, said: “stigma and blame undermine trust and capacity to respond effectively during outbreaks like this one”.
He added: “Experience shows that stigmatising rhetoric can quickly disable evidence-based response by stoking cycles of fear, driving people away from health services, impeding efforts to identify cases, and encouraging ineffective, punitive measures.”
Mateo Prochazka of the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), echoed this, telling PinkNews, “There is a huge risk of stigma emerging and being attached to the current patterns of transmission we’re seeing for monkeypox, and that will be stigma directed at the infection of gay and bisexual men and sex in general.”
He continued by saying: “We wanted to make sure people understand that transmission is not exclusive to gay and bisexual men, it just happens that it has entered this network.”
In regards to the first monkeypox case confirmed in the Republic of Ireland, Adam Shanley, programme manager of HIV Ireland’s MPOWER, has said “This was expected and extensive work was already underway in preparation. There is no cause for panic.”
Remain alert to an unusual rash or blisters that appear on any part of your body, but particularly your face, hands, genitals or bum.
If you notice symptoms like this, contact your local sexual health clinic or GP to discuss – you may need to be tested. https://t.co/BSy7GwAmuK
— Adam Shanley (@Adlers1) May 29, 2022
He also tweeted a helpful guide created in collaboration with the HPSC, which can be found here.
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