Monkeypox: continuous transmission in interconnected sexual networks

The latest UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) the technical report on the current outbreak of monkeypox in the UK shows no signs of abating the outbreak. Based on global observations, there is no evidence of sustained transmission beyond these networks.

The outbreak continues to grow and case information strongly suggests that the virus is transmitted primarily through close or sexual contact. UKHSA Health protection teams in all regions of England continue to identify and assess the risk of close contacts of confirmed cases.

Most people with monkeypox can be treated safely at home and there have been no deaths in the UK. Most people experience mild illness, but in some it can cause significant illness requiring hospitalization, including severe pain.

It is starting a vaccination program and sexual health services will offer the vaccine to anyone who is considered to be at increased risk of exposure. This includes people with a recent history of multiple partners, who participate in group sex, who attend on-premises sex venues, or who have recently had a sexually transmitted bacterial infection.

As of July 6, 2022, there were 1,517 laboratory-confirmed cases in the UK. The median age of confirmed cases in the UK was 36 years. In England, 99% of cases are male and 74% are known to be London residents. 16% (226) of cases from England reported recent travel abroad, with 176 of these reporting travel within Europe.

The report includes a breakdown of the events the cases reported attending, 572 in total. 17% of those who provided information had been to a sex location on the premises and, although this does not confirm that the transmission occurred there, UKHSA continues to do outreach work with event organizers and provides guidance on minimizing risk in a variety of settings.

Dr. Meera Chand, Director of Clinical and Emerging Infections, UKHSA said:

It is concerning that we continue to see the outbreak grow and we urge the public to do everything possible to help us slow the spread.

If you have recently had new or multiple sexual partners, be on the lookout for symptoms of monkeypox and be aware that many of the cases we are seeing are finding only one or a few lesions.

If you’re worried you might have monkeypox, take a break from events, gatherings with friends, or sexual contact. Instead, stay home and contact 111 or your local sexual health service for advice. Please contact the clinic before your visit and avoid close contact with others until you are seen by a doctor.

To help with our contact tracing, we encourage everyone to make sure they share contact details with their sexual partners.

If you are called for vaccination, we strongly recommend that you take it.

UKHSA will continue to publish regular technical briefs as the response to the outbreak continues.

The latest UK case numbers are available from GOV.UK.

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