Health officials in the UK have released new photos of monkeypox symptoms as cases continue to rise around the world.
Images shared by the UK Health Security Agency show skin lesions characteristic of monkeypox infection. The photos, which show the rash on parts of the body including the hand and face, were released to raise awareness of monkeypox symptoms.
Monkeypox is a rare virus that causes symptoms such as fever, chills, and an often painful rash. Historically, it has tended to spread from animals to humans. However, it can also be transmitted through direct contact from person to person – for example during sex.
Between May 6 and May 30, 190 cases were reported in the UK: 183 in England, 4 in Scotland, 2 in Northern Ireland and 1 in Wales.
The vast majority (132) of cases in England were found in residents of London. Most of these are gay or bisexual men or other men who have sex with men. According to UKSHA, first contact tracing has linked some cases to dating apps, saunas and gay bars, but no specific factors or exposures have been identified.
Because of this, public health officials have asked men who have sex with men to be extra vigilant for symptoms. Authorities are working with organizations like the Terrence Higgins Trust and Stonewall to try to spread accurate information about the virus while minimizing stigma.
Professor Kevin Fenton, Regional Director of Public Health in London, said: “Monkeypox can affect anyone, but we know many of the recent diagnoses are in gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men, many of whom are living or left to London.
“As with any new disease outbreak, the risk of stigma and uncertainty is high. That is why we are working side-by-side with the NHS, sexual health organisations, voluntary and community sectors in London to get accurate information on monkeypox particularly to the people and high-risk groups through representative voices.”
People who have been in close contact with someone infected with monkeypox are given a smallpox vaccine called Imvanex, which is known to reduce the risk of serious illness and further transmission.
Some people have also been advised to isolate themselves for 21 days.
Despite increasing numbers, monkeypox is still considered very rare, and the risk to the general public is estimated to be low. Experts don’t think monkeypox, for example, will become the next Covid-19, in large part because it’s far less transmissible.
But the outbreak is still a concern for health officials as it is the first time many countries are seeing cases in people who have no travel links to countries where the virus is thought to be endemic.
For more resources on monkeypox – and how to stay safe during the outbreak – check out the websites of groups like the Terrence Higgins Trust and the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV.