LONDON (CU)_Over the recent weeks, the monkeypox outbreak has been confirmed in 15 countries outside Africa, including the US, the UK, Europe, Canada, Australia and Israel. In the United Kingdom, public health officials are set to announce more infections on Monday (23 May), as the ramp up efforts to contain the first multinational outbreak of the virus.
Contact tracing and testing efforts have been launched in the country, with partners, people in the same households and other closest contacts of confirmed cases requested to be vaccinated and isolate at home for up to 21 days. They have also been advised to avoid contact with children under 12, pregnant women and other immunosuppressed people who are vulnerable to serious infections. While many of those who have contracted monkeypox do not need specialist care, some of the patients have been admitted to hospital, with one child in intensive care in London. According to experts, the virus does not spread easily, and most of those who are infected only develop fever, rash, blisters and other mild symptoms which would heal without treatment.
The United Kingdom announced its first case on 7 May, of a person who had arrived in London from Nigeria. Since then, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has confirmed 19 other cases, with a majority of the patients being young men who have sex with men. This is not the first time monkeypox infections have been reported in the European nation, with a total of seven cases being recorded between 2018 and 2021. However, the recent outbreak is found to be unusual since all cases in the previous years were linked to travel from Nigeria, while this year, most of these cases no known links to the country or to any part of west or central Africa where the virus is endemic.
“I think it’s possible that some of these outbreaks will be driven by superspreading events,” Dr Michael Head, a senior research fellow in global health at Southampton University, said. “For example, the Spanish health authorities are looking at a sauna as a site of single exposure that resulted in many secondary cases. The reportedly mild presentations of several cases may also be a factor, in that people will be more mobile and potentially likely to socialise. However, we do still need to understand more about the transmission dynamics.”