Researchers have found that some people with monkeypox are not presenting with typical symptoms, and their disease could look more like a typical STI.
A study looking at people diagnosed recently sound that ‘many’ of those infected have only single genital lesions, or they have sores within the mouth or in the anus.
The standard symptoms for monkeypox include sores and scabs across the body.
But the research led by Queen Mary University of London said that expecting to see this could be a problem as the disease may not be identified immediately, even by doctors.
‘In some people, anal and oral symptoms have led to people being admitted to hospital for management of pain and difficulties swallowing,’ they said.
‘This is why it’s so important that these new clinical symptoms be recognised and healthcare professionals be educated on how to identify and manage the disease – misdiagnosis can slow detection and thus hinder efforts to control the spread of the virus.’
There have now been 2,050 confirmed monkeypox cases across England so far with the majority based in London.
‘These particular symptoms can be severe and have led to hospital admissions so it is important to make a diagnosis. Expanding the case definition will help doctors more easily recognise the infection and so prevent people from passing it on.’
Dr John Thornhill, who works treating sexual health issues and is the first author on the study, said: ‘While we expected various skin problems and rashes, we also found that one in ten people had only a single skin lesion in the genital area, and 15 percent had anal and/or rectal pain.
‘These different presentations highlight that monkeypox infections could be missed or easily confused with common sexually transmitted infections such as syphilis or herpes. We therefore suggest broadening the current case definitions.
‘We have also found monkeypox virus in a large proportion of the semen samples tested from people with monkeypox. However, this may be incidental as we do not know that it is present at a high enough levels to facilitate sexual transmission. More work is needed to understand this better.’
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