UK: ‘Early signs’ that monkeypox outbreak may be reaching its peak

LONDON –

British health authorities said on Friday that the countrywide monkeypox outbreak may be reaching its peak and that the growth rate of the epidemic has slowed.

The UK Health Security Agency said in a statement that there were “early signs that the outbreak is stalling”, with 2,859 cases detected since May. No deaths have been reported. Last month, authorities estimated the outbreak was doubling every two weeks, but the number of new infections has fallen in recent weeks.

“While the most recent data suggests that the growth of the outbreak has slowed, we cannot be complacent,” said Dr. Meera Chand, director of Clinical and Emerging Infections at the Health Security Agency. She said that anyone who thought they might have monkeypox should stop hanging out with friends, social gatherings and avoid sexual contact.

The Health Security Agency said its most recent analysis of the outbreak “shows that monkeypox continues to be transmitted primarily in interconnected sexual networks of gay, bisexual, or men who have sex with men.” More than 70 per cent of UK cases are in London.

British authorities noted a small number of infections among women, but said there was not enough evidence to suggest there was a sustained spread of monkeypox beyond gay and bisexual men; 99% of all cases in the UK are in men.

Scientists analyzing monkeypox viruses in the UK noted a number of mutations compared to viruses circulating in Africa, but said there was no evidence those genetic changes made monkeypox more transmissible. .

Experts suspect that monkeypox outbreaks in North America and Europe may have originated in Africa long before the disease began to spread through sex at two raves in Spain and Belgium.

The World Health Organization said this week that 92 percent of monkeypox cases beyond Africa were likely infected through sex, and its Director-General recently called on vulnerable gay and bisexual men to consider reduce their sexual partners “for the time being”.

To date, more than 26,000 cases of monkeypox have been reported in almost 90 countries, with an increase of 19 percent in the last week.

In June, British authorities expanded their vaccination strategy, offering vaccines not only to health workers treating monkeypox patients and high-risk contacts of patients, but also to some men who are gay or gay. bisexual and are at high risk of contracting the virus, including those with multiple sexual partners or who participate in group sex.

Last month, the UK downgraded its assessment of the monkeypox outbreak, removing a recommendation that contacts of monkeypox cases isolate for three weeks unless they have symptoms. The change was prompted by data showing that only a small number of contacts ultimately get monkeypox and a lack of evidence that the disease spreads without close, intimate or sexual contact.

The US declared its monkeypox outbreak a national emergency on Thursday, the WHO designated it a global emergency last month.

Monkeypox is spread when people have close physical contact with the lesions, clothing, or bedding of an infected person. Most people recover without treatment, but injuries can be extremely painful, and severe cases can lead to complications, including encephalitis and death.

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