The virus is much more common in Africa than Europe but officials are concerned it could become endemic if it makes the jump from humans to animals
The virus is much more common in Africa than Europe but officials are concerned it could become endemic if it makes the jump from humans to animals. Another 36 cases of the virus were reported in England on Monday, taking the total number of cases to 56, with Scotland reporting its first case.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said there was “community transmission” of the virus from “three unlinked incidents”.
Mr Javid added that “heightened vigilance” was needed among healthcare staff.
He said: “In the coming days I expect that further cases will be detected by the UK Health Security Agency’s expert diagnostic capabilities, working with NHS services to ensure heightened vigilance among healthcare professionals.”
The Health Secretary added that the UKHSA had set up a helpline for doctors dealing with monkeypox while extra testing capacity was being offered.
Health officials described the outbreak as “significant and concerning” but said the risk to Britain remained low.
Close contacts of people infected with Monkeypox are being offered a smallpox vaccine called Imvanex.
This gives people some protection against Monkeypox, partially because of the similarities between the two diseases, although Monkeypox is seen as far less severe.
More than 1,000 doses are in the process of being issued to NHS trusts.
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She said: “You are helping us limit the spread of this infection in the UK.
“Because the virus spreads through close contact, we are urging everyone to be aware of any unusual rashes or lesions and to contact a sexual health service if they have any symptoms.
“A notable proportion of recent cases in the UK and Europe have been found in gay and bisexual men, so we are particularly encouraging these men to be alert to the symptoms.”
In a new risk assessment announced yesterday the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said there was “a potential risk of human-to-animal transmission in Europe”.
Dr David Heymann, professor of infectious diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said the virus was often spread through sexual contact.
He said: “It’s very possible there was somebody who got infected, developed lesions on the genitals, hands or somewhere else, and then spread it to others when there was sexual or close physical contact.
“This is not Covid. We need to slow it down, but it does not spread in the air and we have vaccines.”