Spain on Saturday reported its second monkeypox-related death, bringing the death toll linked to the current outbreak outside of Africa to three.
Spain and Brazil announced on Friday what they believe to be their first virus-related deaths.
However, it is not clear whether monkeypox actually caused any of the three deaths: Spanish authorities are still performing autopsies, and Brazilian authorities say the deceased patient suffered from other serious illnesses.
More than 18,000 cases have been identified worldwide since early May outside of Africa, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Spain is one of the most affected countries in the world, with 4,298 people infected with the virus, according to the Spanish Ministry of Health.
“Among 3,750 patients (monkeypox)… 120 were hospitalized, two died,” the report says, without giving a date for the second death.
It states that the victims were “two young men” and that studies are currently underway to gather additional “epidemiological information” on both cases.
Brazil said a man with monkeypox died on Thursday in Belo Horizonte, the capital of the southeastern state of Minas Gerais.
He was “treated at the hospital for other serious illnesses,” the state health department said in a statement.
“It is important to emphasize that he had serious comorbidities so as not to sow panic among the population. “The death rate from monkeypox is very low,” Minas Gerais state health minister Fabio Baccheretti said, adding that the patient was being treated for cancer.
The Brazilian Ministry of Health has registered about 1,000 cases of monkeypox, mostly in the states of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, which are also in the southeast of the country.
The WHO European office said on Saturday that an increase in monkeypox-related deaths can be expected.
“Due to the continued spread of monkeypox in Europe, we expect an increase in the number of deaths,” said Catherine Smallwood, Senior Emergency Specialist for the WHO European Office, in a statement.
The goal, she said, should be to “quickly interrupt transmission in Europe and stop this outbreak.”
‘Global Health Crisis’
Early signs of illness include high fever, swollen lymph nodes, and a chickenpox-like rash.
But Smallwood stressed that in most cases, the disease heals on its own without the need for treatment.
“Common reasons for patients to require inpatient care include assistance with pain management, secondary infections and, in a small number of cases, the need to treat life-threatening complications such as encephalitis,” she explained.
Last Saturday, the WHO declared the monkeypox outbreak a global health emergency.
The disease has been detected in 78 countries, with 70% of cases in Europe and 25% in the Americas, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday.
With cases on the rise worldwide, the WHO on Wednesday urged the group currently hardest hit by the virus – men who have sex with men – to limit their sexual partners.
Ghebreyesus told reporters that the best way to protect yourself from infection is to “reduce the risk of infection.”
“For men who have sex with men, for now, this includes reducing the number of sexual partners, reviewing sex with new partners, and sharing contact details with any new partners so that follow-up can be done if necessary,” he said.
The disease usually resolves on its own in two to three weeks, sometimes for a month.
The smallpox vaccine from Danish drugmaker Bavarian Nordic, sold under the name Jynneos in the US and Imvanex in Europe, also protects against monkeypox.