Seven cases of monkeypox have been confirmed in London and northeast England, of which only one was linked to travel outside the country, health officials said. Current evidence suggests the rare disease may now be spreading in the local community, according to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).
This viral spread, if it is occurring, could spread beyond the UK and affect people in other countries, US health officials warned on Tuesday (May 17). according to STAT. This concern was validated on Wednesday, when two more European countries announced suspected and confirmed cases of the disease, informed STATUS on May 18. These countries include Spain, where eight potential cases are being investigated, and Portugal, where five cases have been confirmed and more than a dozen probable cases have been identified.
Monkeypox is a rare infection caused by a poxvirus that belongs to the same family and genus as variola. virusWhat causes smallpox, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION). The infection initially causes symptoms of fever, headache, muscle aches, exhaustion, and swollen lymph nodes; Rashes then appear on the face and spread throughout the body, eventually leading to patches of discoloration, blisters, scabs, and bumps on the skin. In Africa, where the disease is endemic, the infection is fatal in about 10% of cases, but in most cases, the disease remains mild and resolves in about two to four weeks.
Historically, monkeypox cases outside of Africa have been linked to international travel or animal importations, according to the CDC. (African rodents and nonhuman primates can carry the virus.) However, the source of the six non-travel-related infections in the UK remains a mystery, and it is unknown whether the new cases discovered in Spain and Portugal are linked to the UK. infections, according to STAT.
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“This is rare and unusual,” Dr. Susan Hopkins, UKHSA’s chief medical adviser, said in the statement published on Monday (16 May). “UKHSA is rapidly investigating the source of these infections because evidence suggests there may be community transmission of monkeypox virus, spread by close contact.”
In general, the monkeypox virus does not spread easily between people, but it can enter the body through contact with broken skin, the respiratory tract or the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose, or mouth, according to the CDC. Human-to-human transmission is thought to occur primarily through large respiratory droplets, that is, droplets of saliva and mucus imbued with viral particles.
“Respiratory droplets generally cannot travel more than a few feet, so prolonged face-to-face contact is required” for transmission to occur, the CDC said. However, people can also catch the virus from contaminated objects, particularly clothing and bedding, or by coming into contact with contaminated bodily fluids on broken skin.
Earlier in the month, on May 7, the UKHSA reported a travel-related case of monkeypox; in that case, the infected person contracted the infection while in Nigeria, the agency stated. UKHSA worked with the National Health Service (NHS) to notify people who might have been in close contact with the infected person; did not identify additional cases through this investigation.
Following the detection of this travel-related infection, the UKHSA identified two people in a London household who had also contracted monkeypox; however, these infections were not related to the initial travel-related case, UKHSA announced on May 14. Then, on May 16, the agency announced four more cases of monkeypox, three in London and one in Newcastle, that had no known connection to any of the previous cases.
“Inquiries are under way to establish links between the last 4 cases, which appear to have been infected in London,” the UKHSA statement said. “All 4 of these cases identify themselves as gay, bisexual, or other men who have sex with men.” So far, common contacts have been identified for two of these four cases.
The overall risk of contracting the virus remains low among the general public as again, the pathogen requires prolonged close contact to spread, according to the UKHSA statement. However, “we particularly urge men who are gay and bisexual to be aware of any unusual rashes or lesions and to contact a sexual health service without delay,” Hopkins said.
(The Spanish media outlet El País reported that the eight suspected cases in Spain were initially reported at a clinic that treats sexually transmitted diseases.)
When the UK launched its investigation into the nation’s monkeypox cases, CDC officials raised concerns that there may be multiple chains of transmission across the country, only a few of which have been detected, STAT reported. .
“You have two clusters that have no links to travel or other people known to be associated with a recognized outbreak. It suggests that unknown chains of transmission are occurring,” Dr. Jennifer McQuiston, a senior U.S. official, told STAT. CDC. earlier this week. “If there seem to be unknown chains of transmission, it just puts us on edge to think: Could this be spreading outside of the UK?” Now, there are reasons to believe that it is.
In anticipation of possible spread to the US, the CDC may issue an alert to health care facilities, and in particular clinics that treat sexually transmitted diseases, to be on the lookout for possible cases of smallpox. ape, McQuiston told STAT.
Originally published on Live Science.