New monkeypox cases being detected ‘every day’ as UK outbreak spreads

New figures on Monday will confirm continued increase in cases

Furvah Shah
Sunday 22 May 2022 16:34 BST
Monkeypox, a disease that rarely appears outside Africa, has been identified by European and American health authorities in recent days
Monkeypox, a disease that rarely appears outside Africa, has been identified by European and American health authorities in recent days (AP)

New monkeypox cases are being reported in the UK every day as the unprecedented outbreak of the virus spreads, a senior doctor has warned.

Updated infections figures to be released on Monday will confirm an increase on the 20 cases confirmed by the UK Health Security Agency

The virus is also continuing to spread overseas, with Israel and Switzerland the latest countries to report cases on Sunday, bringing the total number of affected nations to 14.

The disease was first found in monkeys and is most common in remote parts of central and west Africa. It is spread through close physical contact, including sexual intercourse.

Dr Susan Hopkins, a chief medical adviser for UKHSA, said updated case figures will be released on Monday and warned that most cases are being found in gay or bisexual individuals or men who have sex with other men.

The right arm and torso of a patient with lesions due to monkeypox (CDC/AP)

Speaking on BBC One’s Sunday Morning show, Dr Hopkins said: “We will be releasing updated numbers tomorrow – over-the-weekend figures.

“We are detecting more cases on a daily basis and I’d like to thank all of those people who are coming forward for testing to sexual health clinics, to the GPs and emergency departments.”

She added: “The community transmission is largely centred in urban areas and we are predominantly seeing it in individuals who self-identify as gay or bisexual, or other men who have sex with men… because of the frequent close contacts they may have.”

Dr Hopkins asked anyone who has been changing sexual partners regularly, or having close contact with people that they don’t know, to come forward if they develop a rash.

The rash can be itchy and painful and it changes as it goes through different stages. It can resemble chickenpox or syphilis, before finally forming a scab, which later falls off.

Regarding vaccines for the disease, Dr Hopkins said: “There is no direct vaccine for monkeypox, but we are using a form of smallpox vaccine – a third-generation smallpox vaccine that’s safe in individuals who are contacts of cases.

“So, we’re not using it in the general population. We’re using it in individuals who we believe are at high risk of developing symptoms and using it early, particularly within four or five days of the case developing symptoms.

“For contacts, [this] reduces your risk of developing disease, so that’s how we’re focusing our vaccination efforts at this point.”

On Sunday, US president Joe Biden said “everybody should be concerned about” the unprecedented spread of the virus in Europe and North America.

Speaking to reporters at Osan Air Base in South Korea during his first visit to Asia as president, he said: “It is a concern in that if it were to spread it would be consequential.”

As of Friday, there were 80 confirmed cases worldwide, including 20 in the UK and two in the US.

The disease belongs to the same virus family as smallpox but its symptoms are milder.

People usually recover within two to four weeks without needing to go to hospital, and there have been no deaths resulting from the recent outbreaks.

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