Monkeypox cases increase across Europe, North America

Monkeypox lesions on arm and chest
Monkeypox lesions on arm and chest

CDC / Brian W. J. Mahy

Around the world countries that have never seen monkeypox outbreaks of significant size are reporting more and more cases of the virus typically seen in West and Central Africa.

Today during a media question-and-answer session, World Health Organization (WHO) Emerging Diseases and Zoonoses Lead Maria Van Kerkhove, PhD, said the WHO was aware of around 200 confirmed or suspected cases in Europe, North America, and Australia.

Though anyone can contract monkeypox through close, personal contact, men who have sex with men have been the primary case-patients identified in these outbreaks. Andy Seale, MPH, WHO strategies adviser for the Department of Global HIV, Hepatitis, and Sexually Transmitted Infections Programmes, said it was important to remember, however, that monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted disease.

"This is not a gay disease," said Seale. "Anybody can contract the virus through close contact. It is not a virus caused by sexual intercourse, but [intercourse] contact is sufficient for transmission."

CDC: Be on lookout for genital rash

During a media briefing at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today, John Brooks, MD, a medical epidemiologist with the division of HIV/AIDS prevention, said many patients are presenting with the distinctive monkeypox rash around their genitals.

Brooks said clinicians, especially in sexual health clinics, should question patients who have new rashes about travel and sexual history.

"We want people to be thinking about monkeypox; this is something to pay attention to," Brooks said. He also said the CDC is working on updating its image archives for clinicians to streamline diagnosis.

Currently there is 1 confirmed monkeypox case in the United States (in Massachusetts), with 4 more probable cases: 2 in Salt Lake City, and 1 each in New York City and Broward County, Florida.

The Salt Lake City Tribune reports that the two suspected cases in that city share a household, where they are currently in isolation. The paper also said the people had recently traveled to a country experiencing monkeypox cases.

UK reports 36 new cases

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has detected 36 additional cases of monkeypox in the United Kingdom, according to a press release today. Fifty-six cases of monkeypox have been confirmed in the country since May 7.

"While the current outbreak is significant and concerning, the risk to the UK population remains low," UKHSA said. "UKHSA health protection teams are contacting people considered to be high-risk contacts of confirmed cases and are advising those who have been risk assessed and remain well to isolate at home for up to 21 days."

Denmark, Scotland, and Israel all reported their first monkeypox cases over the weekend. And a case in Argentina means the outbreak has now traveled to South America.

In a rapid risk assessment today from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), the agency said that, since May 15, 67 cases of monkeypox acquired in the European Union  have been reported in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden.

"The currently diagnosed human monkeypox cases are primarily among men who have sex with men, which suggests that transmission may take place during intimate relations," the ECDC said.

"Transmission may occur through close contact of mucosa or non-intact skin with infectious material from the lesions, or through large respiratory droplets during prolonged face-to-face contact."

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