One concern about the monkeypox that is currently occurring is that the virus will also enter the animal kingdom in Europe. Then new outbreaks in humans could be the result. How big is the danger?
According to the Friedrich Loeffler Institute (FLI), a permanent occurrence of monkeypox in animals is very unlikely in Europe.
“It is questionable whether there are any animal species in Europe that could be considered suitable reservoir hosts,” writes the Federal Research Institute responsible for animal health. Nevertheless, the further development must be observed.
In addition to a successful initial infection, the virus would have to be passed on within the population in order to spread. “It may be that a single pet like a cat is infected through direct contact with an affected person, but whether a chain of infections will actually start seems unlikely at the moment.”
The EU health authority ECDC had warned that monkeypox could become endemic if the pathogen spread from humans to animals and spread in an animal population. The danger would then be that the virus could spread to humans again and again.
Rodents the natural reservoir of the virus
It has to be clarified whether and to what extent animals are involved in the outbreak or whether it could be caused by reinfection from humans, said Ralf Bartenschlager, President of the Society for Virology, the German Press Agency. Rodents are the natural reservoir of the virus, so retransmission to certain pets is possible, although this has not been described so far.
The FLI considers the risk of a retransmission of the monkeypox virus from humans to rodents in Europe to be “very low, especially due to the very close contact necessary to enable efficient transmission at all,” said a spokeswoman on dpa request. The fact that the virus would be transmitted from humans back to rodents via sewage was “to be regarded as very unlikely, since the virus is mainly excreted directly via smallpox lesions”.
The FLI writes that there have been no studies or reported cases in which pets such as cats, dogs or hamsters have become infected. “Only rabbits could be experimentally shown to contract monkeypox.” However, it cannot be ruled out that other pet species are also susceptible, writes the FLI. “As far as possible, pets should be excluded from the immediate vicinity of sick people.”
Monkeypox infections in humans in West and Central Africa
Monkeypox is a viral disease. The pathogen was first detected in monkeys in a Danish laboratory in 1958 – hence the name monkeypox. However, experts suspect that the pathogen actually circulates in squirrels and rodents. Monkeys – like humans – are considered false hosts. Monkeypox infections in humans have so far been known primarily from regions in West and Central Africa.
A case of monkeypox was found in a human in the UK in early May. Since then, more and more countries in which the virus has not actually occurred until now have been reporting evidence of human-to-human transmission. Several federal states in Germany also reported cases.