Concerns across the UK are growing this morning as the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) confirmed it has detected two additional cases of monkeypox, one in London and one in the South East of England.
The latest cases bring the total number of monkeypox cases confirmed in England since 6 May to 9, with recent cases predominantly in gay, bisexual or men who have sex with men (MSM).
The two latest cases have no travel links to a country where monkeypox is endemic, the agency stressed “so it is possible they acquired the infection through community transmission.”
The virus spreads through close contact and UKHSA is advising individuals, particularly those who are gay, bisexual or MSM, to be alert to any unusual rashes or lesions on any part of their body, especially their genitalia, and to contact a sexual health service if they have concerns.
Contact during sex
Monkeypox has not previously been described as a sexually transmitted infection, though it can be passed on by direct contact during sex.
It can also be passed on through other close contact with a person who has monkeypox or contact with clothing or linens used by a person who has monkeypox.
The two new cases do not have known connections with previous confirmed cases announced on 16, 14 and 7 May.
Initial symptoms of monkeypox include fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion.
A rash can develop, often beginning on the face, then spreading to other parts of the body including the genitals.
The rash changes and goes through different stages, and can look like chickenpox or syphilis, before finally forming a scab, which later falls off.
Monkeypox is a viral infection usually associated with travel to West Africa.
It is usually a mild self-limiting illness, spread by very close contact with someone with monkeypox and most people recover within a few weeks.
Dr Susan Hopkins, Chief Medical Adviser, UKHSA, said: “These latest cases, together with reports of cases in countries across Europe, confirms our initial concerns that there could be spread of monkeypox within our communities.“
“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 if they have concerns.”Dr Susan Hopkins, Chief Medical Adviser, UKHSA
UKHSA said it is working closely with the NHS and other stakeholders to urgently investigate where and how recent confirmed monkeypox cases were acquired, including how they may be linked to each other.
“The virus does not usually spread easily between people. The risk to the UK population remains low. Anyone with concerns that they could be infected with monkeypox is advised to contact NHS 111 or a sexual health clinic,” the agency said.
“People should notify clinics ahead of their visit. We can assure them their call or discussion will be treated sensitively and confidentially.”