Monkeypox cases more than double in the UK as WHO prepares to hold emergency talks

20 May 2022, 13:23

Eleven new cases of monekypox have been confirmed in the UK
Eleven new cases of monkeypox have been confirmed in the UK. Picture: Alamy/UKHSA

By Megan Hinton

Eleven new cases of monkeypox have been confirmed in the UK, the Health Secretary has announced.

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Sajid Javid said the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) had confirmed 11 more cases of monkeypox in the UK, with most being described as mild.

The new cases come on top of the nine previously identified bringing to total to 20, with the initial case having returned from travel to Nigeria.

Mr Javid said: "UKHSA have confirmed 11 new cases of Monkeypox in the UK. This morning I updated G7 health ministers on what we know so far.

"Most cases are mild, and I can confirm we have procured further doses of vaccines that are effective against monkeypox."

The Government has some stocks of the smallpox vaccine, which can be effective against monkeypox as the viruses are quite similar.

Monkeypox cases are usually found in West Africa, and the virus does not often spread elsewhere.

Read more: Monkeypox spreading in UK by 'sexual transmission', experts believe

That is why outbreaks reported across Europe, Canada, Australia and the United States have cased alarm among public health experts.

World Health Organisation bosses will hold an emergency monkeypox meeting amid growing fears about the international outbreak as Germany and Belgium become the latest nations to declare cases.

Experts on the UN agency are set to discuss the unusually high rates among gay and bisexual men, it has been reported.

Monkeypox is likely to be sexually transmissible, experts believe. The UKHSA said recent cases self-identify as gay or bisexual men.

People from these groups are being asked "to be alert" to possible symptoms, such as rashes or lesions on any part of their body, especially their genitalia.

The outbreak of cases in the UK has led to some sexual health clinics reintroducing social distancing measures and even asking patients about any unusual bumps or rashes ahead of their appointment.

The monkeypox rash, which can develop as part of the virus, changes and goes through different stages before finally forming a scab, which later falls off.

The UKHSA also said that initial symptoms of monkeypox include fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion.

Previously, it was believed the virus could only spread by close contact such as contact with lesions or via an infected person's exhaled respiratory droplets.

Read more: Europe on alert as cases of monkeypox found in Spain and Portugal

Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser at the UKHSA said: "This is rare and unusual.

"UKHSA is rapidly investigating the source of these infections because the evidence suggests that there may be transmission of the monkeypox virus in the community, spread by close contact.

"We are particularly urging men who are gay and bisexual to be aware of any unusual rashes or lesions and to contact a sexual health service without delay.

"We are contacting any potential close contacts of the cases to provide health information and advice."

The health agency emphasises that the virus does not spread easily between people and the risk to the UK population is low.