Climate change is starting to take its toll on the health system as well. If before the pandemic, high summer fever was certainly the sign of a cooling perhaps due to air conditioning, now the diagnosis is no longer so obvious. In addition to Covidto worry the World Health Organization is the so-called monkeypox (monkeypox): an infection transmitted from animals to humans, caused by a virus of the same family as smallpox (Poxviridae). As the Istituto Superiore di Sanità recalls, the name derives from the first identification of the virus, discovered in monkeys in a Danish laboratory in 1958. But the infection had never reached such a high prevalence. From the beginning of May to 7 July, monkeypox cases were reported in 26 EU countries and the European Economic Area (4,908 confirmed cases). Most of the infections have been identified in males (between the ages of 18 and 50) who have sexual intercourse with other males. So far, over 500 confirmed cases in Italy. Symptoms are known: fever, muscle aches, headache, swollen lymph nodes, fatigue and skin manifestations, such as blisters, pustules, small scabs. The disease typically lasts 2 to 4 weeks; but frail and immunocompromised individuals can even risk their lives.
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To prevent the situation from deteriorating, the Ministry of Health has already prepared the distribution of 4200 doses of the vaccine in the 4 most affected regions, namely Lombardy, Lazio, Emilia Romagna and Veneto. “For the moment, the monkeypox vaccine is limited only to some risk categories – explains Massimo Andreoni, director of Infectious Diseases of the Tor Vergata Polyclinic in Rome and scientific director of Simit (Italian Society of Infectious and Tropical Diseases) – Let’s not forget that 98% of transmissions occur through close male-to-male relationships. The vaccine is therefore the right weapon to block further spread. But it is necessary to foresee a vaccination campaign that extends to other regions, and a greater network for the administration of doses is desirable ”. In Italy, vaccination against human smallpox was abolished in 1981. But for those who received prophylaxis, the risk of becoming seriously infected with monkeypox is perhaps averted. “Vaccination against human smallpox protects to a certain extent – remarks Mauro Pistello, full professor of Microbiology and Clinical Microbiology at the University of Pisa – The immune system would need exercise, and instead the human smallpox virus has not had the opportunity to train the immune system to recognize it. However, the lesson learned 60 years ago has, in a sense, been placed in the drawer; the immune system does not forget. For now, people with overt infection are just unvaccinated. However, it is not certain that vaccinated people cannot have an asymptomatic infection. And therefore they escape tracking ».
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DANGER OF MOSQUITOES
But the risks of new infections don’t end there. In fact, if a fever appears after being bitten by a mosquito, it could be West Nyle virus (Wnv). Since the beginning of June, 94 confirmed cases of Wnv infection in humans have been reported in Italy. The first human case of the season was reported by Veneto in the province of Padua. Seven deaths among the confirmed cases (5 in Veneto, 1 in Piedmont and 1 in Emilia-Romagna). The usutu virus was then added to the Nile fever, a sort of close relative of the first, with reported outbreaks near Frosinone and in some areas of Sardinia. For experts, these diseases were perhaps predictable. “On the one hand, climate change is affecting – explains Andreoni – Some insects are also settling in our country, as had already happened for the tiger mosquito”. But globalization and the mobility of tourists did everything else. “These are diseases to live with – remarks Pistello – The cases are difficult to distinguish, but we are trying to develop broad spectrum antivirals”. Meanwhile, Covid cases continue to be carefully observed. The spread seems to be decreasing, but the presence of new variants, also identified in China, could put a strain on the pandemic management of next autumn.