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With monkeypox detected in countries ranging from the US to Australia and France to the UK, we are reviewing the situation and whether it is of concern.

What is monkey pox?

Monkeypox is a viral infection usually found in Central and West Africa. Cases, usually small clusters or isolated infections, are sometimes diagnosed in other countries, including the UK where the first case was recorded in 2018 in an individual suspected of contracting the virus in Nigeria.

There are two forms of monkeypox, a milder strain from West Africa and a more severe strain from Central Africa or Congo. The current international outbreak appears to involve the West African strain, although not all countries have released such information.

Early symptoms of monkeypox include fever, headache, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes and chills, as well as other features such as exhaustion, according to the UK Health Safety Agency. .

“A rash may develop, often starting on the face and then spreading to other parts of the body, including the genitals,” the UKHSA explains. “The rash changes and goes through different stages, and may look like chickenpox or syphilis, before finally forming a crust, which later falls off.”

Most patients recover from monkeypox within a few weeks.

How is did it spread?

Monkeypox does not spread easily between humans and requires close contact. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, human-to-human transmission is thought to occur primarily through large respiratory droplets.

“Respiratory droplets typically cannot travel more than a few feet, so prolonged face-to-face contact is required,” the CDC states. “Other methods of human-to-human transmission include direct contact with bodily fluids or lesion material, and indirect contact with lesion material, such as through contaminated clothing or linens.”

Where have recent cases been found?

Cases of monkeypox have been confirmed in recent weeks in at least 12 countries where it is not endemic, including the UK, Spain, Portugal, France, Germany, Italy, the United States United, Canada, the Netherlands, Sweden, Israel and Australia.

While some cases have been found in people who have recently traveled to Africa, others have not: of the two Australian cases to date, one was in a man who had just returned from Europe , while the other was with a man who had recently been to the UK. A case in the United States appears to be in a man who recently traveled to Canada.

The UK is also experiencing cases of monkeypox, with signs of community spread. So far, 20 cases have been confirmed, with the first reported on May 7 in a patient who had recently traveled to Nigeria.

Not all of the cases appear to be linked, and some have been diagnosed in men who identify as gay, bisexual, or who have sex with men.

The World Health Organization said on Tuesday it was now coordinating with European health authorities.

Does this mean monkeypox is sexually transmitted?

Dr Michael Head, senior researcher in global health at the University of Southampton, says the latest cases could be the first transmission of monkeypox although sexual contact has been documented, but this has not been confirmed, and in all case it’s probably close contact that counts.

“There’s no evidence that it’s a sexually transmitted virus, like HIV,” Head says. “It’s more than here close contact during sexual or intimate activity, including prolonged skin-to-skin contact, may be the key factor during transmission.”

The UKHSA advises gay and bisexual men, and other communities of men who have sex with men, to watch out for unusual rashes or sores on any part of their body, especially their organs genitals. “Anyone who is concerned about being infected with monkeypox is advised to contact clinics before visiting,” the UKHSA says.

How Should we be concerned?

The West African strain of monkeypox is generally a mild infection for most people, but it is important that infected people and their contacts are identified. The virus is of greater concern in vulnerable people such as those with weakened immune systems or who are pregnant. Experts say the rising numbers and evidence of community spread are concerning, and more cases are to be expected as contact tracing by public health teams continues. It is unlikely, however, that there will be very large outbreaks. Head noted that vaccinating close contacts could be used as part of a “ring vaccination” approach.

It emerged on Friday that the UK had reinforced sound supplies of a vaccine against smallpox, a related but more serious virus that has been eradicated. According to the World Health Organization, “Vaccination against smallpox has been shown by several observational studies to be approximately 85% effective in preventing monkeypox.” The jab can also help reduce the severity of the disease.

The vaccine has already been offered to high-risk contacts of confirmed cases, including some healthcare workers, in the UK, although it is unclear how many have been vaccinated.

A UKHSA spokesperson said: ‘Those who needed the vaccine were offered it.

Spain is also rumored to be looking to buy vaccine supplies, and other countries, such as the United States, have large stocks.

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