The United Arab Emirates on Tuesday reported the country's first Monkeypox infection in a woman who returned from West Africa.
The health authorities did not disclose in which of the seven sheikhdoms of the UAE the case was reported, which is in line with how authorities in the federation declined to offer geographic breakdown for Covid-19 infections throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
The authorities said little about the patient, but stressed they were investigating her contacts and "taking all necessary measures" to limit the spread of Monkeypox.
The diagnosis in the UAE marks the first reported case on the Arabian Peninsula. Israel recorded the first reported case in the Middle East region last week. The World Health Organization has identified more than 100 cases globally.
Cases of the smallpox-related disease have previously been seen only among people with links to Central and West Africa. But the UK, Spain, Portugal, Italy, the US, Sweden, and Canada all reported infections, mostly in young men who hadn't previously traveled to Africa. France, Germany, Belgium and Australia have also identified cases.
This unusual spread in the developed West has confused experts who have studied the disease in Africa.
"I'm stunned by this. Every day I wake up and there are more countries infected,” said Oyewale Tomori, a virologist who formerly headed the Nigerian Academy of Science and who sits on several World Health Organization advisory boards. He added, "This is not the kind of spread we've seen in West Africa, so there may be something new happening in the West."
The virus originates in primates and other wild animals and causes fever, body aches, chills and fatigue in most patients. People with severe cases can develop a rash and lesions on the face, hands and other parts of the body.
After experts in the UK began to look whether the infection was spreading through sex, AP reported citing a leading adviser to the World Health Organization that two sex rave parties in Europe might have spread the virus.
Dr David Heymann, who formerly headed WHO's emergencies department, told AP that the leading theory to explain the spread of the disease was sexual transmission among gay and bisexual men at two raves in Spain and Belgium.
He said, “We know monkeypox can spread when there is close contact with the lesions of someone who is infected, and it looks like sexual contact has now amplified that transmission."
Such a spread would mark a significant departure from the typical pattern of spread of Monkeypox in Central and Western Africa, where people are mainly infected by animals like wild rodents and primates and outbreaks have not spilled across borders.
(With AP inputs)