London: British health officials have so far reported more than 300 cases of monkeypox across the country, including 77 infections on Monday. Outside of Africa, the UK has the largest identified outbreak of the disease, with the vast majority of infections affecting gay and bisexual men, according to an AP report. Health officials have warned that anyone, regardless of their sexual orientation, may be at risk of contracting the disease if they are in close contact with a patient, their clothing or their sheets, the report said.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Sunday that more than two dozen countries that have not previously identified monkeypox cases reported 780 cases, a more than 200% increase in cases since the end of May. No deaths from monkeypox have yet been reported outside of Africa. The UN health agency said most cases in Europe and elsewhere have been reported in sexual health clinics and “primarily, but not exclusively, involve men who have sex with men.”
There have been more than 1,400 cases of monkey pox and 63 deaths so far this year in four countries where the disease is endemic: Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Congo and Nigeria, the AP report said, drawing on the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are cited. Genetic sequencing of the virus has not yet shown a direct link to the outbreak outside Africa.
The WHO said the sudden and unexpected detection of monkeypox in numerous countries “suggests that there may have been undetected transmission for an unknown length of time followed by recent enhancer events.” Last month, a leading WHO adviser reportedly said the outbreak in Europe and beyond was likely spread by sex at two recent raves in Spain and Belgium.
The WHO estimated the risk of monkeypox to global health as ‘moderate’, saying it was the first time so many cases and clusters had been reported around the world. Until last month, the disease was not known to cause major epidemics outside of Central and West Africa, where it mainly affects rural people who come into close contact with infected wildlife.
The ongoing outbreak of monkeypox in Europe and elsewhere, including Canada, Australia, Israel and the US, is the first time the disease has been known to spread among people who have had no previous travel connections to Africa.
Last week, the UK’s Health Security Agency reportedly said most cases had been in gay or bisexual men between the ages of 20 and 49 and that “researches to date have found links to gay bars, saunas and the use of dating apps in the UK and abroad.”
Most monkeypox patients only experience fever, body aches, chills and fatigue. People with more serious illness may develop rashes and lesions on the face and hands that can spread to other parts of the body.
Last week, Dr Rosamund Lewis, the WHO’s top expert on monkeypox, said she doubted the disease would cause a pandemic but said action must be taken quickly to curb its spread so that it doesn’t catch on in new areas become entrenched.
780 cases of monkeypox reported as of June 2: WHO
As of May 13 and as of June 2, a total of 780 laboratory-confirmed cases of monkeypox have been reported or identified in 27 countries in four WHO regions that are not endemic to monkeypox virus, according to the World Health Organization. The UN health agency said that while epidemiological investigations are ongoing, most of the reported cases to date have been submitted through sexual health or other health services in primary or secondary health care facilities and primarily, but not exclusively, involve men who have sex with men (MSM).
Although the West African clade of the virus has so far been identified from case samples, most confirmed cases with travel history reported travel to countries in Europe and North America, rather than to West or Central Africa where the monkeypox virus is endemic.
Endemic countries with monkeypox include Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Ghana (identified in animals only), Ivory Coast, Liberia, Nigeria, the Republic of the Congo, and Sierra Leone. Benin and South Sudan have documented imports in the past. Countries currently reporting cases of the West African clade include Cameroon and Nigeria, the WHO said.
The sudden and unexpected appearance of monkeypox in several non-endemic countries at the same time suggests that there may have been an undetected transmission for an unknown length of time, followed by recent enhancer events. The WHO rates the risk at a global level as moderate, as this is the first time many cases and clusters of monkeypox have been reported simultaneously in non-endemic and endemic countries in widely divergent WHO geographic areas.
Notably, most cases were reported by the WHO European Region (20 countries). Confirmed cases have also been reported from the Americas, Eastern Mediterranean and Western Pacific region.
(With AP/PTI inputs)
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