Monkeypox: UK confirms local transmission, WHO expects more cases

Updated on May 23, 2022 04:29 AM IST
  • “Available information suggests that human-to-human transmission is occurring among people in close physical contact with cases who are symptomatic”, the agency said.
A section of skin tissue, harvested from a lesion on the skin of a monkey, that had been infected with monkeypox virus.(REUTERS)
A section of skin tissue, harvested from a lesion on the skin of a monkey, that had been infected with monkeypox virus.(REUTERS)
Agencies |

The World Health Organization said it expects to identify more cases of monkeypox as it expands surveillance in countries where the disease is not typically found.

“Available information suggests that human-to-human transmission is occurring among people in close physical contact with cases who are symptomatic”, the agency said.

“What seems to be happening now is that it has got into the population as a sexual form, as a genital form, and is being spread as are sexually transmitted infections, which has amplified its transmission around the world,” WHO official David Heymann, an infectious disease specialist, told Reuters.

Heymann said close contact was the key transmission route, as lesions typical of the disease are very infectious. For example, parents caring for sick children are at risk, as are health workers, which is why some countries have started inoculating teams treating monkeypox patients using vaccines for smallpox.

Many of the current cases have been identified at sexual health clinics. Early genomic sequencing of a handful of the cases in Europe has suggested a similarity with that spread in a limited fashion in Britain, Israel and Singapore in 2018.

Heymann said it was “biologically plausible” the virus had been circulating outside of the countries where it is endemic, but had not led to major outbreaks as a result of Covid-19 lockdowns, social distancing and travel restrictions.

He stressed that the monkeypox outbreak did not resemble the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic because it does not transmit as easily. Those who suspect they may have been exposed or who show symptoms including bumpy rash and fever, should avoid close contact with others, he said.

“There are vaccines available, but the most important message is, you can protect yourself,” he added.

Local transmission

Britain is seeing daily infections of the rare monkeypox virus that are unconnected to any travel to West Africa, where the disease is endemic, a health official said on Sunday.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said new figures would be released on Monday, after it registered 20 cases on Friday. Asked if community transmission was now the norm in Britain, UKHSA chief medical adviser Susan Hopkins said “absolutely”.

“The risk of the general population remains extremely low at the moment, and I think people need to be alert to it,” she said, adding for most adults, symptoms would be “relatively mild”.

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