Monkeypox cases in the UK have more than doubled, with 11 more announced today (Friday, May 20).
It brings the total number reported in the country to 20 – although there are concerns many cases are going undetected.
Confirming the news, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “This morning I updated G7 health ministers on what we know so far.
“Most cases are mild, and I can confirm we have procured further doses of vaccines that are effective against monkeypox.”
Exactly what is driving the UK’s largest outbreak is a mystery – normally the disease is sporadic and linked to travel in parts of Africa, where it is endemic.
But it is “likely” the latest cases have spread within the UK.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) is expected to hold an emergency meeting on the virus today, as concerns have been raised about summer festivals.
The viral infection is similar to human smallpox and usually causes mild illness, with most people recovering within a few weeks and the UK Health and Security Agency says the risk to the UK population “remains low”.
Dr Susan Hopkins, the UKHSA’s chief medical adviser, said: “We anticipated that further cases would be detected through our active case finding with NHS services and heightened vigilance among healthcare professionals.
“We expect this increase to continue in the coming days and for more cases to be identified in the wider community. Alongside this we are receiving reports of further cases being identified in other countries globally.
“We continue to rapidly investigate the source of these infections and raise awareness among healthcare professionals. We are contacting any identified close contacts of the cases to provide health information and advice.”
Its similarities mean it can be treated with the smallpox vaccine, with previous data suggesting the vaccine is at least 85% effective in preventing the virus.
Concerns over summer festivals
The WHO’s regional director for Europe has said he is concerned that the spread of the virus could speed up over the summer months as people gather for parties and festivals.
“As we enter the summer season in the European region, with mass gatherings, festivals and parties, I am concerned that transmission could accelerate, as the cases currently being detected are among those engaging in sexual activity, and the symptoms are unfamiliar to many,” Hans Kluge said in a statement.
Cases reported worldwide
It comes as Australia reported its first case of monkeypox in a traveller in his 30s who had recently returned from Britain.
The man’s case was confirmed on Friday after he arrived in Melbourne with symptoms earlier this week.
A second, probable infection has also been reported in a man in his 40s who had recently travelled to Europe and who developed a mild illness several days after arriving in Sydney.
WHICH COUNTRIES OUTSIDE OF AFRICA HAVE REPORTED CASES OF MONKEYPOX?
Spain: 21 confrmed, 21 suspected
Australia: 1 confirmed, 1 ‘probable’
SOURCE: SKY NEWS