Argentina’s Health Ministry has confirmed the first case of monkeypox, the rare disease that has been found in small numbers in a number of European and North American countries in recent weeks.
According to a statement from the Health Ministry, the confirmed case is a 40-year-old male patient who had returned to the country from Spain. The individual has symptoms compatible with the disease, including fever and blisters on some parts of his body.
Officials said that a PCR test had come back positive and that genetic sequencing is now needed to determine the exact form of the virus.
After arriving in the country, the man visited a clinic in Buenos Aires City, where he was isolated and monitored while awaiting the results of tests. Samples were analysed by the ANLIS-Malbrán institute that specialises in infectious diseases.
"Today the Electron Microscopy Service of the Virology Department of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases ANLIS 'Dr. Carlos G. Malbrán' stated that the first result obtained from samples of vesicular content corresponding to the suspected case determined the presence of viral particles compatible with Poxvirus of the genus Orthopox, a virus that does not circulate in Argentina, and which has a high probability of compatibility with monkeypox," the Health Ministry said in its statement.
"This first result, together with the clinical presentation and the epidemiological background represent a high probability that this is a true case of simian smallpox, although [additional] studies are necessary to confirm it,” it added.
"The person presents ulcerative lesions with no other associated symptoms, arrived in the country on May 25 and showed symptoms on May 26," said the Ministry. The patient remains in isolation and is “in good general condition, and his close contacts are under strict clinical and epidemiological control."
Monkeypox is a viral zoonosis (a virus transmitted to humans from animals) with symptoms very similar to those seen in the past in smallpox patients, although it is clinically less severe. It is endemic in 11 countries in West and Central Africa.
The rare disease spreads by a bite or direct contact with an infected animal's blood, meat or bodily fluids, and initial symptoms include a high fever before quickly developing into a rash.
People infected with it also get a chickenpox-like rash on their hands and face.
No treatment exists but the symptoms usually clear up after two to four weeks, and it is not usually fatal.
Over the past few days, several European and North American countries including Britain, France and the United States have reported cases of the rare virus.
Medical authorities have said, however, that the risk that the disease will spread widely is low.