Public health officials will announce more UK cases of monkeypox on Monday, as increased efforts to contain the virus’ first multinational outbreak have resulted cases in at least 14 countries.

The unusual outbreak of the rare disease has sparked a wave of contact tracing and testing, with closest contacts of confirmed cases – such as sexual partners and people in the same household. household – have recommended vaccination and are required to isolate at home for up to 21 days.

According to UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) guidance, similarly high-risk contacts should avoid immunosuppressed people, pregnant women and children under 12, as they more susceptible to serious infections. Reports have said that one of the cases in the UK is a child in intensive care in London with the disease. The NHS and UKHSA said they would not discuss individual cases.

While some monkeypox patients have been hospitalized, many confirmed cases that do not require specialist care are required to be isolated at home until local health protection teams believe they are no longer capable. infection. Dr Claire Dewsnap, president of the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV, said: “The vast majority of cases have been identified as being isolated at home and do not require hospitalization.

Monkeypox is not contagious, and most people infected develop only mild symptoms, including fever, rash, and blisters, which clear up on their own without treatment. But the virus can cause more serious illness in people with weakened immune systems, pregnant women, and young children.

Dr Susan Hopkins, UKHSA’s chief medical adviser, said other cases identified over the weekend would be confirmed on Monday. Since it was first announced in the UK on 7 May – a person arriving in London from Nigeria – the agency has confirmed 19 more cases, mostly young men who have had sex with men.

The outbreak is unusual because although the UK has had several previous cases of monkeypox – seven between 2018 and 2021 – all previous cases have been linked to travel. calendar from Nigeria. Most of the latest cases in the UK and beyond have no known link to areas of west or central Africa, where the virus circulates.

Globally, more than 180 confirmed or suspected cases are under investigation in at least 14 countries. More than half are in Spain and Portugal. Genetic analysis of three monkeypox viruses from the outbreak found it to be closely related to the virus that spread from Nigeria in 2018 and 2019. Similar studies showed that a Belgian man had contracted the virus during a recent trip to Portugal.

Modeling of the outbreak shows that the virus is spreading mainly through sexual networks. Infection can be transmitted through close contact with bodily fluids, infected sores, and contaminated materials such as towels and bedding. More widespread events may have fueled the outbreak since it reached Europe.

Dr Michael Head, a senior researcher in global health at the University of Southampton, said: “I think it is possible that some of these outbreaks will be driven by superspreading events. “For example, Spanish health authorities are treating saunas as a single exposure that leads to many secondary cases. The reported milder presentations of some cases may also be a factor, whereby people will be more mobile and more able to socialize. However, we still need to understand more about drive dynamics. “

Hopkins told BBC One’s Sunday Morning show that community transmission in the UK “is largely concentrated in urban areas and we mainly see it in people who self-identify as gay or bisexual, or other men who have sex with men”. When asked why most cases fall into that category, she said: “It’s because they probably have close relationships on a regular basis.

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“We are seeing more cases every day and I want to thank everyone who is moving towards testing in sexual health clinics, GPs and emergency departments. We are detecting cases with no identifiable contact with an individual from West Africa, which is what we have seen before in this country.

“We advise anyone who frequently changes sexual partners, or is in close contact with people they don’t know, to take precautions if they develop a rash.”

Dewsnap said sexual health clinics have come under enormous pressure for cuts and lack of support in recent years, while “a worrying number of genital specialists in the sexual health clinic”.

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