Monkeypox cases more than double as 56 in England confirmed

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The total number of monkeypox cases in England has now reached 56, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has confirmed. Case numbers have more than doubled, increasing by 36 from the previous number of 20 cases recorded on Sunday.

While the disease is most commonly found in parts of central and west Africa, cases are now being recorded in the UK, US, Canada, Spain and Italy. The UKHSA has noted that a “notable proportion” of infections are predominantly being found in individuals who identify as gay or bisexual with doctors confirming community transmission.

Ministers have insisted that the monkeypox outbreak will not be a ‘repeat’ of Covid and noted that a vaccine is already available. Chief Secretary to the Treasury Simon Clarke told Sky News: “As with any new disease, and obviously after the Covid pandemic doubly so, we continue to monitor this very closely. I would say I am cautious but I am certainly not concerned about our ability to handle the situation. There is a vaccine which is available and works for monkeypox, and all the evidence is that it is spread by physical contact.”

READ MORE: Is there a monkeypox vaccine?

Scotland confirmed its first case of monkeypox today, and Northern Ireland’s Public Health Agency said there are currently no confirmed cases of the virus in their region. Health officials said that while the current outbreak is “significant and concerning”, the risk to the UK population remains low.

Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser at the UKHSA, said: “Alongside reports of further cases being identified in other countries globally, we continue to identify additional cases in the UK. Thank you to everyone who has come forward for testing already and supported our contact tracing efforts – you are helping us limit the spread of this infection in the UK.

“Because the virus spreads through close contact, we are urging everyone to be aware of any unusual rashes or lesions, and to contact a sexual health service if they have any symptoms. A notable proportion of recent cases in the UK and Europe have been found in gay and bisexual men, so we are particularly encouraging these men to be alert to the symptoms.”

The UKHSA has advised anyone who comes into contact with an individual confirmed to have monkeypox to self-isolate for a total of three weeks. It is also encouraging people who have developed a rash and are frequently changing sexual partners to come forward and seek a diagnosis.



Monkeypox can be transmitted from person to person through close contact

“We are finding cases that have no identified contact with an individual from West Africa, which is what we’ve seen previously in the country,” Dr Hopkins said.

“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. We would recommend to anyone who’s having changes in sexual partners regularly, or having close contact with individuals that they don’t know, to come forward if they develop a rash”

The government has stocks of the smallpox vaccine, which is being offered to very close contacts of those who have been affected.

Cases of monkeypox have been reported in 14 countries, according to epidemiologists at Harvard University who are tracking the spread, including 40 cases in Spain and 23 in Portugal. The first case identified in the UK was in a person who had returned from Nigeria, but other cases are unrelated to travel.

Downing Street said there are no plans to hold a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee over monkeypox, or to impose any travel bans. Asked about travel restrictions from affected countries, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “No, no considerations of that kind. What we’re seeing at the moment is community transmission not linked to travel.”

Symptoms of Monkeypox

Initial symptoms of monkeypox include:

  • fever
  • headache
  • muscle aches
  • backache
  • swollen lymph nodes
  • chills
  • exhaustion

A rash can also develop, usually starting on the face before spreading to other parts of the body, including the genitals. The rash can go through a variety of stages, sometimes looking like chickenpox or syphilis, before forming into a scab which later falls off.

The infection can also be spread through close contact with someone or through clothing and bedsheets used by a person who has monkeypox.

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