UK: 73 new cases of monkeypox, largest outbreak outside Africa

LONDON (AP) — British health authorities have reported 73 more cases of monkeypox Monday, bringing the total to more than 300 across the country. To date, the UK has the largest identified outbreak of the disease beyond Africa, with the vast majority of infections among gay and bisexual men.

Health officials warn that anyone, regardless of sexual orientation, is at potential risk of catching monkeypox if they come into close contact with a patient, their clothing or bedding.

On Sunday, the World Health Organization said more than two dozen countries that had yet to identify monkeypox cases had reported 780 cases, a more than 200% increase in cases since late May. No monkeypox deaths outside of Africa have yet been identified.

The UN health agency said most cases in Europe and elsewhere have been spotted in sexual health clinics and “have involved primarily, but not exclusively, men who have sex with men”.

So far this year, there have been more than 1,400 cases of monkeypox and 63 deaths in four countries where the disease is endemic – Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo and Nigeria – according to the African Centers for Control and disease prevention. Genetic sequencing of the virus has yet to show a direct link to the outbreak outside Africa.

The WHO said the sudden and unexpected detection of monkeypox in many countries “suggests that there may have been undetected transmission for an unknown duration, followed by recent amplification events”. Last month, a top WHO adviser said the outbreak in Europe and beyond was likely spread through sex at two recent raves in Spain and Belgium.

The WHO has rated the risk posed by monkeypox to global health as “moderate”, saying it was the first time so many cases and clusters had been reported across the world. Until last month, the disease was not known to cause large outbreaks beyond central and western Africa, where it has mainly affected people in rural areas who come into close contact with infected wild animals.

The ongoing monkeypox epidemic in Europe and elsewhere, including Canada, Australia, Israel and the United Statesmarks the first time the disease has spread among people who have never had travel ties to Africa.

The UK Health Security Agency said last week that most cases were in gay or bisexual men aged 20-49 and that “investigations to date have identified links to gay bars, saunas and ‘use of dating apps in the UK and abroad’.

Most patients with monkeypox only experience fever, body aches, chills, and fatigue. People with more severe illness may develop a rash and sores on the face and hands that may spread to other parts of the body.

Last week, the WHO’s top monkeypox expert, Dr Rosamund Lewis, said she doubted the disease would trigger a pandemic. but these measures must be taken quickly to curb its spread so that it does not take hold in new areas.

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