Monkeypox outbreak – cases confirmed in more UK areas and sex blamed for spread

Monkeypox is spreading across the UK, with nine more cases confirmed and sexual contact blamed for the spread.

There are currently 20 cases of the disease in the UK, confirmed by Health Secretary Sajid Javid on Friday, with there currently being 80 confirmed cases across 12 different countries.

Experts have raised concerns about the "massive impact" that the disease could have on sexual health clinics if it continues to spread.

The regional director of the World Health Organisation (WHO) atold the BBC that out of the confirmed cases of monkeypox, only one patient had recently travelled to West and Central Africa, where the virus is endemic.

Data also suggests that gay and bisexual men are currently being disproportionally affected by the disease, with health chiefs in the UK "actively investigating" venues visited by six gay and bisexual men who have tested positive.

UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has advised men who have sex with men “to be aware of any unusual rashes or lesions and to contact a sexual health service without delay if they have concerns”.

Dr Claire Dewsnap, president of the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV, told the BBC that the monkeypox outbreak was worsening the “significant pressure” that sexual health clinic staff are already under.

“It is already stretching the workforce and will have a massive impact if staff have to isolate if they are in close contact with someone who’s infected," she later told BBC Radio 4.

“In terms of the infection and its consequences for individuals, I’m not that concerned.

“But I am concerned about our ability to maintain good sexual health services and access for everyone while still managing this new infection.”

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Meanwhile, Professor Sir Peter Horby, director of the Pandemic Sciences Institute at Oxford University, described the current monkeypox outbreak as “an unusual situation”, because the virus is being transmitted within communities outside of Central and West Africa.

Sir Peter told BBC Radio 4 on Saturday: “It’s transmitted by close person-to-person contact and, in the past, we have not seen it being very infectious.

“What’s unusual about what we’re seeing now is that we’re seeing transmission occurring in the community in Europe and now in other countries, so it’s an unusual situation where we seem to have had the virus introduced but now have ongoing transmission within certain communities.

"It would appear that there is some element of sexual transmission perhaps with just the very close contact between people and the skin lesions, because a large proportion of the current cases are being detected in gay and bisexual men.

“So it’s very important that we get the message across that if people have unusual skin lesions that they do seek attention quickly so that we can control this.

"The important thing is that we interrupt transmission and this doesn’t become established in the human population in Europe.”

Anyone displaying symptoms which could be monkeypox is urged to contact their local sexual health clinic.

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