The World Health Organization (WHO) has now confirmed nearly 100 cases of monkeypox in over a dozen countries, with the largest number in the UK. While most cases so far are among gay and bisexual men, health officials emphasise that anyone can contract the virus through close personal contact.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) reported the first case in the current outbreak on 7 May in a man who had recently travelled to Nigeria, where monkeypox is endemic. This was soon followed by two additional cases who share a household and four cases among gay and bisexual men, all of whom appear to have contracted the virus locally. As of 23 May, UKHSA has reported 70 confirmed cases in England and one in Scotland.
The latest WHO update on 21 May listed 92 confirmed and 28 suspected cases. After the UK, the most cases have been reported in Spain and Portugal, with smaller numbers in several other European countries, Canada, the United States and Australia. An informal tally by Global.health, compiled from various sources, listed more than 300 confirmed or suspected cases worldwide as of 25 May.
Cases so far have “mainly but not exclusively been identified amongst men who have sex with men,” according to WHO. Among the Global.health cases with a known sex and age, all but three are young or middle-aged men. Many of the affected men identify as gay or bisexual or sought care at sexual health clinics. Several cases are reportedly linked to a sauna in Spain and a fetish festival in Belgium. Many of the men reported recent international travel.
Monkeypox, which is related to smallpox, is not a new disease. Despite its name, it is most commonly associated with rodents. Although primarily seen in Central and West Africa, isolated cases are occasionally reported in Europe and elsewhere, often involving travellers. The current outbreak is the largest ever seen outside of Africa.
Smallpox vaccination prevents monkeypox as well, and monkeypox cases have been rising over the past few decades since routine smallpox vaccination was discontinued; WHO declared that smallpox had been eradicated worldwide in 1980. This means only older people have vaccine-induced immunity.
Less severe than smallpox, monkeypox typically causes flu-like symptoms (e.g., fever, fatigue, muscle aches), swollen lymph nodes and a rash. The rash can appear on the face, genitals, palms, soles of the feet and elsewhere on the body. The sores can be flat, raised or pus-filled, and may resemble other conditions such as herpes, syphilis or chickenpox. In the current outbreak, several cases initially presented with a genital rash, and some did not report other symptoms. The virus has an incubation period of up to three weeks, and the illness typically lasts two to four weeks.
The monkeypox virus is transmitted through close personal contact, including skin-to-skin contact and kissing. Close contact may involve household members and health care workers. The virus can also spread via clothes or linens that have been in contact with fluid from sores. Health officials say monkeypox can be transmitted via respiratory droplets at close range, but the virus does not appear to spread through the air over longer distances in the same way as the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
Monkeypox is generally not considered a sexually transmitted infection, and it is not known whether it can be transmitted through semen during intercourse. “Monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted infection in the typical sense, but it can be transmitted during sexual and intimate contact,” Dr John Brooks, an epidemiologist with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said during a 23 May media briefing.
Experts historically thought monkeypox was not easily transmitted between humans, and it is unclear why it is now spreading more extensively. Some have suggested the virus may have evolved to become more easily transmissible, but so far genetic sequencing does not support this hypothesis. More likely, the virus entered a social or sexual network by chance and found favorable conditions for transmission. Read more from Here