On Saturday, ARS Île-de-France revealed that a first child with the disease had been identified. Within the school that the young patient attends, the parents of students have been informed to avoid cascading contamination.
The press release published on Saturday by the Île-de-France Regional Health Agency (ARS) gave a new perspective to the monkeypox epidemic, which has been spreading in France and Europe since the beginning of May.
“The Ile-de-France Regional Health Agency informs of the occurrence of a first confirmed case of monkeypox (monkey pox) in a child attending primary school in the region. He was treated and does not present no signs of seriousness,” the statement said, shared on the agency’s website and social media.
A first woman also infected
While the first cases and outbreaks of contamination in Europe linked to this disease suggested an infection affecting the gay community, the discovery in France of a first case in a child demonstrates that monkeypox can in fact affect all categories of population.
“Last week, there was the first declaration in France in a woman, whereas the disease hitherto exclusively concerned men between 30 and 40 years old. It is not surprising to see secondary transmissions. Children are a target, as had been the case with Covid-19 before”, explained Sunday on BFMTV infectious disease specialist Benjamin Davido, one of the French specialists in the disease.
Monkeypox is a zoonosis, that is, it is normally transmitted from animals to humans. A cousin of smallpox, it was usually confined to the African continent, specifically around the Congo Basin, and resulted from contact with an infected animal, such as a Gabon rat or a monkey. But since the beginning of May, hundreds of cases have been listed in Europe. In France alone, according to the latest report from Public Health France, 330 people have been infected with the disease.
“Less contagious” than the flu or Covid-19
Does the discovery of a case in a child augur an increase in contamination? For Professor Benjamin Davido, there is no point in drawing hasty conclusions, especially since the disease is not particularly contagious.
“This disease is deemed to be not very contagious. According to the literature, it is estimated that it has an R zero (the number of people a patient infects, editor’s note) around 1. It is therefore two times less contagious than the flu, and much less contagious than Covid-19. It has droplet transmission like the flu, and also transmission during close contact, which can be skin contact, such as within a family”, underlines the specialist.
The challenge now is to identify the different people who may have come into contact with the sick child, particularly within his school, in order to block the chain of contamination.
In its press release, the ARS Île-de-France claims to have “immediately started the investigations in order to trace the child’s chain of contacts as quickly as possible. A probable case has been identified within the same siblings. Measures have been taken taken with National Education and a message was sent to the parents of children who were contacts at risk at the school attended by the child”.
A more serious disease in children
However, the contamination of a first child in France is not trivial. Because as Public Health France points out, “the disease is more serious in children and in immunocompromised people. It can be complicated by superinfection of skin lesions or respiratory, digestive, ophthalmological or neurological damage”.
“We can clearly see that the challenge of transmission in children will be to block the chains of contamination, to ensure that there is not a reservoir in the child, and that the epidemic starts”, analyzes Benjamin Davido.
The majority of cases in France as in Europe still concern men who have sex with men. “To date, as in other European countries, these cases have occurred mainly, but not exclusively, in men who have sex with men, with no direct link to people returning from endemic areas. The majority of case reports multiple sexual partners”, specifies Public Health France.
Monkeypox manifests itself in particular by impressive rashes, responsible for pustules that disappear over time. No death related to the disease has been listed for the moment in France. And a treatment already exists: It is the smallpox vaccine, effective against monkeypox due to the proximity of the two diseases.