Should we be worried after the discovery of a first case in a child in France?

On Saturday, ARS Île-de-France announced that a first child had been identified with the disease. Within the school the young patient attends, the parents of the students have been informed to avoid cascading contamination.

The press release published on Saturday by the Regional Health Agency Île-de-France (ARS) gave a new perspective to the monkeypox epidemic that has been spreading in France and Europe since early May.

“The regional health authority of Ile-de-France informs of the occurrence of a first confirmed case of monkeypox (monkeypox) in a child attending primary school in the region. He has been treated and shows no signs of seriousness,” reads in the statement said, shared on the agency’s website and on social media.

A first woman was also infected

While the first cases and outbreaks of contamination in Europe related to this disease indicated an infection affecting the gay community, the discovery of a first case in a child in France shows that monkeypox can indeed affect all population groups.

“Last week in France there was the first report in a woman, while the disease has so far only affected men between 30 and 40 years of age. It’s not surprising to see secondary transmissions. Children are a target, as was the case with Covid -19 before,” explained infectious disease specialist Benjamin Davido, one of the French specialists on the disease, on BFMTV on Sunday.

Monkeypox is a zoonosis, which means it’s usually transmitted from animals to humans. A cousin of smallpox, it was usually confined to the African continent, particularly around the Congo Basin, and resulted from contact with an infected animal, such as a Gabonese rat or monkey. But since the beginning of May, hundreds of cases have been listed in Europe. In France alone, 330 people have contracted the disease, according to the latest Public Health France report.

“Less contagious” than the flu or Covid-19

Does the discovery of a case in a child herald an increase in contamination? For Professor Benjamin Davido, it makes no sense to jump to conclusions, especially since the disease is not particularly contagious.

“This disease is not considered very contagious. According to the literature, it is estimated that it has an R-zero value (number of people infected by a patient, editor’s note) around 1. So it’s twice as contagious as the flu, and a lot less contagious than Covid-19. It has droplet transmission like the flu, and also transmission through close contact, which can be skin contact, such as within a family,” emphasizes the specialist.

The challenge now is to identify the various people who may have come into contact with the sick child, particularly within his school, in order to break the chain of contagion.

In its press release, ARS Île-de-France claims to have “immediately started the investigation in order to trace the chain of contacts of the child as quickly as possible. A probable case was identified in the same siblings. Action has been taken with National Education and a message has been sent to parents of children who have been contacts at the school attended by the child.”

A more serious disease in children

However, contagion 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, ocular, or neurological damage.”

“We can clearly see that the challenge of transmission in children will be to block the chains of infection, to ensure that there is no reservoir in the child and that the epidemic begins,” analyzes Benjamin Davido.

Most cases in France, as in Europe, still involve men who have sex with men. “So far, as in other European countries, these cases have mainly, but not exclusively, occurred in men who have sex with men, with no direct link to people returning from endemic areas. The majority of cases involve multiple sexual partners,” specifies Public Health France.

In particular, monkeypox is manifested by impressive rashes that are responsible for pustules that disappear over time. No death related to the disease has been recorded in France at the moment. And one treatment already exists: it is the smallpox vaccine, which is effective against monkeypox due to the close proximity of the two diseases.

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