Europe

British child in intensive care with monkeypox as transmission rises

Monkeypox: Expert outlines ‘different’ behaviour in outbreak

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The youngster is among the 20 confirmed cases of the disease in the UK. The Telegraph reports that the child is currently being treated in a hospital in London.

UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) confirmed the 20 UK cases with nine other countries outside of Central and West Africa also reporting outbreaks.

Dr Susan Hopkins, a chief medical adviser for UKHSA, said updated figures for the weekend will be released on Monday, May 23, as she warned of more cases “on a daily basis”.

She also warned that doctors are seeing community transmission with cases predominantly identified in individuals who self-identify as gay or bisexual or men who have sex with other men.

The disease, which was first found in monkeys, can be transmitted from person to person through close physical contact – including sexual intercourse – and is caused by the monkeypox virus.

Dr Hopkins, speaking to BBC One’s Morning Show, said: “We will be releasing updated numbers tomorrow – over-the-weekend figures.

“We are detecting more cases on a daily basis and I’d like to thank all of those people who are coming forward for testing to sexual health clinics, to the GPs and emergency department.”

Asked if there is community transmission in the UK, she said: “Absolutely, we are finding cases that have no identified contact with an individual from west Africa, which is what we’ve seen previously in this country.

“The community transmission is largely centred in urban areas and we are predominantly seeing it in individuals who self-identify as gay or bisexual, or other men who have sex with men.”

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Asked why it is being found in that demographic, Dr Hopkins said: “That’s because of the frequent close contacts they may have.

“We would recommend to anyone who’s having changes in sex partners regularly, or having close contact with individuals that they don’t know, to come forward if they develop a rash.”

She added that there is no direct vaccine for monkeypox but a form of smallpox vaccine is being used which is safe for individuals who are contacts of cases.

Dr Hopkins said: “So, we’re not using it in the general population.

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“We’re using it in individuals who we believe are at high risk of developing symptoms and using it early, particularly within four or five days of the case developing symptoms.

“For contacts, [this] reduces your risk of developing disease, so that’s how we’re focusing our vaccination efforts at this point.”

Dr Hopkins’ comments come as it emerged that some of the UK’s top disease experts warned monkeypox would fill the void left by smallpox three years ago.

Scientists from institutions including the University of Cambridge and the London School of Tropical Hygiene and Medicine argued the disease would evolve to fill the “niche” left after smallpox was eradicated.

The experts attended a seminar in London in 2019 and discussed how there was a need to develop a new generation vaccines and treatments, according to the Sunday Telegraph.

The seminar heard that as smallpox was wiped out in 1980, there has been a cessation of smallpox vaccinations.

As a result, up to 70 percent of the world’s population are no longer protected against smallpox.

This means they are also no longer protected against viruses in the same family, including monkeypox.

Their discussion was published in journal Vaccine in 2020. It concluded that “these facts invite speculation that emergent or re-emergent human monkeypox might fill the epidemiological niche vacated by smallpox”.

The World Health Organization said on Friday that it expects more cases of monkeypox.

It is expanding surveillance in countries where the disease is not typically found.

The UN agency said that as of Saturday, 92 confirmed cases and 28 suspected cases of monkeypox have been reported from 12 member states which are not endemic for the virus.

WHO official David Heymann, an infectious disease specialist, said: “What seems to be happening now is that it has got into the population as a sexual form, as a genital form, and is being spread as are sexually transmitted infections, which has amplified its transmission around the world.”

Early genomic sequencing of a handful of the cases in Europe has suggested a similarity with the strain that spread in a limited way in Britain, Israel and Singapore in 2018.

Mr Heymann said it was “biologically plausible” the virus had been circulating outside of the countries where it is endemic, but had not led to major outbreaks as a result of COVID-19 lockdowns, social distancing and travel restrictions.

He stressed the monkeypox outbreak did not resemble the early days of the Covid pandemic because it does not transmit as easily.

The expert advised anyone who suspects they may have been exposed or showing symptoms – including a bumpy rash and fever – should avoid close contact with others.

Germany, Israel, Switzerland, Spain, the Netherlands and the US have all confirmed cases of the disease.

US President Joe Biden said recent cases of monkeypox identified in Europe and the United States are something to be concerned about.

In his first public comments about the disease, Mr Biden added: “It is a concern in that if it were to spread it would be consequential.”

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