Professor Nachman Ash
Professor Nachman Ash Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Health Ministry Director-General Prof. Nachman Ash has sought to calm the public's fears with regard to a number of recent cases of monkeypox that have been detected both in Israel and abroad.

Monkeypox is endemic in parts of Africa and only rarely appears in other parts of the world, where cases have been mild and no deaths reported in outbreaks over the past few decades.

"It's very important for me to calm people down; this is not Coronavirus-2," Prof. Ash told Radio 103FM on Sunday. "There were outbreaks of this in the past, before coronavirus. Smallpox, a disease that has been eradicated, is related to monkeypox, which is why the vaccine against smallpox also protects against monkeypox, but this is not a serious illness that the entire population needs to be vaccinated against."

Prof. Ash, a former COVID czar, added that, "We are weighing the option of vaccinating those who are at risk. The vaccine does have side effects and we need to consider this very carefully. The vaccine can cause a similar disease to the one it protects against and can cause lesions. This is a disease that is endemic in Africa and it has two forms. The milder form is the one that has reached us. The man in question has been hospitalized in Ichilov Hospital after discovering lesions on his skin, after returning from western Europe and he has been confirmed to have contracted monkeypox. This disease manifests with fever, lesions and rash, and enlarged lymph nodes, and it generally passes within a couple of weeks. However, if a person with an impaired immune system is infected, the disease can be more serious and can even result in death, though this is rare.

"I believe there will be more cases here," Prof. Ash added. "The disease usually only spreads via close physical contact, although in rare cases it can spread via inhaled particles. It is generally spread by men who have intimate relations with many partners but it is not confined to this population; anyone can contract it, usually via close physical contact.

"But this is absolutely not coronavirus," he stressed. "People should take care and refrain from close physical contact, as this is an unpleasant illness - but it's not dangerous like coronavirus is. We're not going to see the same numbers of seriously ill patients, nor of those who have a mild version of the illness."