Shares of a Danish pharmaceutical group surged on Thursday after the company received an order for its vaccine to treat monkeypox, a rare disease that has cropped up recently across a handful of European countries.
Bavarian Nordic AS shares
climbed 26% in Copenhagen on news that an unnamed European country had signed a contract to supply its smallpox vaccine, which can also be used to treat the virus that began appearing in May.
The relatively rare virus has been detected in Portugal, the U.K. and Spain, with health officials in the U.S. announcing a case in Massachusetts involving a man who had traveled to Canada. European investigators have said most of the cases have occurred between gay men, indicating transmission via close contact possibly through sex.
Monkeypox has largely been seen in Africa, triggered by infections from rodent and small-animal bites. It doesn’t spread as easily among human individuals. Of the 20 cases confirmed across Europe, most reportedly seem to have been acquired locally.
The illness typically starts off with flulike symptoms and swelling lymph nodes, followed by a rash on the face and body, and usually takes two to four weeks to resolve. The virus has two distinct genetic codes, the Congo Basin and the West African clades, with the former more transmissible and virulent, according to a 2019 fact sheet from the World Health Organization.
The fatality rate is roughly 0% to 10%, and slightly higher among children, WHO said. People younger than 40 to 50 may be more susceptible given that routine smallpox vaccines were halted after that disease was declared eradicated in 1980, the organization said.
The U.S. case represents a “public health urgency,” but not emergency, Andrea McCollum, an epidemiologist with the CDC’s poxvirus and rabies branch, is reported to have told Fortune magazine in an article published Thursday. The U.S. saw an outbreak in 2003, caused by a shipment of animals from Ghana, with six Midwest states affected.
Dr. Eric Toner, a senior scientist and health security expert with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health said in the same article that the disease is “not highly transmissible” and unlikely to “cause large outbreaks.” That’s due to monkeypox’s long incubation period, up to 21 days, which offers “plenty of time to implement quarantine and isolation,” he said.
Bavarian Nordic’s smallpox vaccine has been approved in the U.S. and Canada to cover monkeypox, and approved in Europe as Imvanex for smallpox, though it has previously seen off-label use in response to monkeypox cases, the company said.
“While the full circumstances around the current monkeypox cases in Europe remain to be elucidated, the speed of which these have evolved, combined with the potential for infections beyond the initial case going undetected, calls for a rapid and coordinated approach by the health authorities, and we are pleased to assist in this emergency situation,” said Paul Chaplin, CEO of Bavarian Nordic.
“Infection control has been a high priority for societies during COVID-19, and this situation is an unfortunate reminder that we cannot let our guard down but must continue to build and strengthen our infectious-disease preparedness to keep the world open,” he said.
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