Words: Alastair James; pictures: Pexels
The UK's Health Security Agency (UKHSA) is warning men who have sex with men to be wary after nine cases of monkeypox have been identified in England in May so far.
On Wednesday (18 May) two new cases were diagnosed bringing the total number of cases diagnosed since 6 May to nine.
Recent cases, according to the UKHSA have been predominantly in gay, bisexual, or men who have sex with men.
London’s Public Health Director @ProfKevinFenton explains why we are asking everyone, but particularly gay and bisexual men, to be on the lookout for any unusual rashes or blister-like lesions after the recent discovery of several #monkeypox cases in England. pic.twitter.com/JZjM9yweJD— UK Health Security Agency (@UKHSA) May 19, 2022
Monkeypox is a viral infection usually associated with travel to West Africa and is usually spread through close contact. It hasn't been listed as an STD before but can be passed on during sex.
Most people recover within a few weeks.
The infection does not usually spread easily between people, according to the UKHSA and the risk to the population remains low.
Dr. Susan Hopkins, the Chief Medical Adviser, UKHSA, says: "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."
She says the UKHSA is identifying cases and investigating them rapidly.
"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," she adds.
The cases identified on Wednesday have no travel links to a country where monkeypox is endemic, the UKHSA says. This indicates they were acquired through community transmission.
They also have no links to cases identified previously.
The UKHSA is advising everyone to be alert of 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.
Symptoms listed by the UKHSA are: "a 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," the UKHSA continues.
The BBC reports that stocks of the smallpox vaccine have been bought as the two viruses are similar.
Cases have also been reported in Germany, Belgium, the US, Canada, Spain, Italy in the last few weeks.
Anyone with concerns is being advised to contact NHS 111 or a sexual health clinic. People should notify clinics ahead of their visit.
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