Authorities in Australia, France and Germany confirmed their first cases of monkeypox on Friday as the normally rare disease continues to crop up in a growing number of countries around the globe.
The Australian state of Victoria recorded its first case of monkeypox, in a man his 30s who had recently returned from Britain. Earlier on Friday, neighbouring New South Wales' health authorities said they had identified another "probable" case of monkeypox, in a man in his 40s who had recently returned to Sydney from Europe.
A case was also detected in the German city of Munich for the first time since the start of the outbreak a few weeks ago, according to the Army Medical Service. French authorities similarly confirmed that a 29-year-old man in the greater Paris area had contracted the virus. A second case was confirmed in Belgium on Friday, news agency Belga reported.
The cases follows multiple clusters recently reported in countries where the disease is not usually found - including the United States, Britain, Spain and Portugal. Most of the cases reported so far involve men who have had sexual contact with other men.
In Britain, the number of confirmed recent cases stood at 20 as of Friday. The country bought smallpox vaccine to provide some protection against the disease, the BBC reported, citing the government.
In Spain, the confirmed tally reached 30 on Friday. There are also another 23 suspected cases, the newspaper La Vanguardia reported, citing the Ministry of Health. Most were logged in the Madrid area.
The authorities in Madrid had identified a sauna as a possible place of infection. The business is frequented mainly by young men and many foreigners, reported the radio station Onda Cero.
Sweden designated monkeypox as a danger to the public on Friday, a day after registering a first case. The designation allows the government to take protective measures and prepare health services, Health and Social Affairs Minister Lena Hallengren said.
Monkeypox generally occurs in Central and West Africa, often in proximity to tropical rainforests, and is considered endemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where it was first discovered in humans in 1970.
The illness can be transmitted from person to person through air droplets, close bodily contact or sharing contaminated linens or objects.
The virus usually causes symptoms similar to smallpox, but milder. Cases can also be severe and lead to fatality. Smallpox has been considered eradicated worldwide since 1980 after a major vaccination campaign.
Experts suspect that the pathogen that causes monkeypox circulates in rodents - monkeys are so-called false hosts. According to the WHO, previous cases of monkeypox were usually linked to travel to areas in West and Central Africa.
According to the World Health Organization, monkeypox has appeared more frequently in Nigeria in recent years. Since 2017, a total of 558 suspected cases have been reported there. Of those, 241 have been confirmed and eight people have died.