Monkeypox cases in Britain have almost tripled as further infections continue to be reported in the United States.
The latest set of figures released by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) on Monday afternoon confirmed that the number of cases in England is up by 36, bringing the total number of monkeypox cases confirmed since May 7 to 56.
Scotland confirmed its first case on the same day, bringing the total to 57.
Meanwhile in the US there have been reports of monkeypox infections in Utah, New York, Massachusetts and Florida.
It comes as sexual activity at raves in Europe may have sparked the international monkeypox outbreak, a leading advisor to the World Health Organisation has said.
Dr David Heymann, who formerly headed the global public health body’s emergencies department, said the leading theory focussed on sexual transmission at two events in Spain and Belgium.
There have been more than 100 confirmed or suspected monkeypox infections around the world in the current outbreak, which have mostly been in Europe.
‘We don’t need to panic,’ public health officials say
Monkeypox will not cause the same kind of world-shaping disease outbreak as Covid, according to public health officials.
“We have vaccines squirreled away by our government,” Blossom Damania, a professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, told NBC. “I don’t think people need to be alarmed. Monkeypox is a serious disease. We need to respect it and take it seriously, but we don’t need to panic.”
There are also two FDA-approved therapeutic drugs for smallpox that will likely treat the rare condition.
LGBTQ+ people ‘notable fraction’ of monkeypox cases, CDC says
Public health officials are quick to note that people of all identities can catch and spread monkeypox, but they have said that a “notable fraction of cases” during this year’s outbreak are among gay and bisexual men.
“Some groups may have a greater chance of exposure right now, but by no means is the current risk of exposure to monkeypox exclusively to the gay and bisexual community in the US,” Dr John Brooks, chief medical officer for the CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, said on Monday. “Anyone, anyone, can develop [and] spread monkeypox infection, but … many of those affected in the current global outbreak identified as gay and bisexual men.”
US considered mass vaccinations that could’ve stopped monkeypox
After the 9/11 attacks, US officials considered immunising the entire population against smallpox, a treatment that would’ve also protected against monkeypox.
However, the decision was ruled out because older smallpox vaccines carry a small risk of severe side effects, meaning mass vaccination campaigns would inevitably put some at risk.
“In the end, it was decided no, because of the negative consequences of vaccinating lots of people,” Bill Hanage, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told The New York Times.
“Vaccine side effects are rare,” he added. “But once you start giving it to millions of people, then they will start to add up.”
Washington identifies first likely monkeypox case
The patient was identified as a only man who recently traveled to a country where other cases have been identified.
County health leaders said there’s no suspected health outbreak, and that less than a dozen people had close contact with the man.
The CDC will continue monitoring the situation, along with King County.
A new term for your public health vocabulary: ring vaccination
When it comes to monkeypox, there are some notable differences with Covid, which make the former much less likely to spread in mass numbers than the latter.
The disease requires prolonged in-person or fluid-to-fluid contact, and can be treated with multiple existing vaccines and therapeutic treatments.
As a result, public health officials are considering “ring vaccination” a likely approach going forward.
Using this methodology, rather than conduct mass vaccination campaigns, doctors will instead be more targetted, giving vaccines to close contacts of confirmed cases until an outbreak is stopped in its tracks.
US will release monkeypox vaccine from national stockpile for ‘high risk’ people
As monkeypox cases crop up unexpectedly in countries across the globe, the US is releasing vaccines from the Strategic National Stockpile for “high-risk” patients.
The US has a “good stock” of smallpox vaccines, which are also effective and licensed for treatment against monkeypox, Dr Jennifer McQuiston of the CDC said on Monday.
“I can report that there has been a request for release of the Jynneos vaccine from the National Stockpile for some of the high-risk contacts of some of the early patients, so that is actively happening right now,” she said.
A helpful thread on what we know and don’t know about the monkeypox outbreak
Have a lot of questions about monkeypox? You’re not alone.
As public health officials around the world analyse what to do next about the unexpected outbreak of the rare disease, this thread by University of St Andrews virologist Muge Cevik is a great place to start.
It has detailed analysis of some basic questions on spread, severity, and what’s new about this outbreak.
Authorities tracking 200-plus contacts for Massachusetts monkeypox patient
The only confirmed monkeypox case in the US so far was located in Masachusetts, and officials there are tracking more than 200 people who have come into close contact with the man, according to the CDC on Monday.
Most of those are health care workers involved in treating the individiual through the Massachusetts Departments of Public Health.
The patient, who recently visited Canada, where another cluster has been reported, remains isolated in Massachusetts General Hospital.
So far, cases have been reported in the UK, Spain, and Portugal, far outside the normal range of the condition, which is endemic to parts of Africa.
“The CDC worked really quickly to sequence the virus from the Massachusetts patient and within 48 hours, we had determined that it closely matched the sequence being reported from a Portugal patient,” Jennifer McQuiston of the CDC, told The Boston Herald.
However, officials note the disease doesn’t spread as readily as Covid and shuoldn’t be considered an equivalent concern.
A reminder: There’s already a vaccine for monkeypox!
We shouldn’t be as worried about monkeypox as we are about Covid, according to health officials.
And one reason why is simple: there’s already a vaccine that works against the disease, which is rarely found outside of Africa.
Vaccine makers like Denmark’s Bavarian Nordic A/S are ramping up production of existing smallpox vaccines. They are shown to be highly effective against the rare condition, which is akin to a much less severe version of smallpox.
Two more suspected cases of Monkeypox detected in Utah
Health officials in Utah are investigating two suspected cases of Monkeypox, the fourth US state to report infections.
Two adults who live in the same house in Salt Lake City and recently returned from overseas are showing mild symptoms for the disease, officials said.
Salt Lake Health said the infected pair were isolating and there was not thought to be any risk of exposure to others.
Bevan Hurley reports.
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