Friday 20 May 2022 12:34 AM Britain's monkeypox outbreak 'DOUBLES in size': Eleven new cases 'will be ... trends now

Friday 20 May 2022 12:34 AM Britain's monkeypox outbreak 'DOUBLES in size': Eleven new cases 'will be ... trends now
Friday 20 May 2022 12:34 AM Britain's monkeypox outbreak 'DOUBLES in size': Eleven new cases 'will be ... trends now

Friday 20 May 2022 12:34 AM Britain's monkeypox outbreak 'DOUBLES in size': Eleven new cases 'will be ... trends now

The monkeypox outbreak in Britain has doubled in size, health officials will announce today.

Britain has been stocking up on thousands of monkeypox vaccines and treatments amid fears the current spate of cases is only the tip of the iceberg.

Nine Britons had been diagnosed with the contagious virus so far but a further 11 are set to be confirmed today, The Times reported.

The majority of cases are not linked, suggesting it is spreading more widely, although ministers are considering a public health campaign to warn gay men it may be more prevalent for them.

Although monkeypox is not classed as a sexualy transmitted disease, many recent cases in the UK were in men who have sex with other men. 

The UK's drug watchdog told MailOnline it was monitoring the current outbreak and 'working with companies to speedily bring forward suitable treatments'. 

Health chiefs also revealed to MailOnline they have bought thousands of vaccine doses and are already deploying them to close contacts of infected Britons. 

Antiviral drugs and jabs designed to target smallpox have cross protection against monkeypox, with the two viruses genetically very similar.

Nine Britons have been diagnosed with monkeypox and all but one of them appear to have contracted it in the UK. The original UK patient had brought the virus back from Nigeria, where the disease is widespread

Nine Britons have been diagnosed with monkeypox and all but one of them appear to have contracted it in the UK. The original UK patient had brought the virus back from Nigeria, where the disease is widespread. At least three patients are receiving care at specialist NHS units in London and Newcastle

The latest outbreak has been described as 'unusual' by experts because person-to-person transmission of monkeypox was thought to be extremely rare.

Six of Britain's cases are in gay or bisexual men, which officials say is 'highly suggestive of spread in sexual networks'.

Dr Susan Hopkins, the chief medical adviser at the UK Health Security Agency, urged gay and bisexual men to check if they have irregular rashes and talk to a sexual health doctor if concerned. 

Cases have also been announced in the US, Spain and Portugal, making it the most widespread monkeypox outbreak to date. Canada also has suspected cases.

Britons who have been in close contact with monkeypox cases are being given an off-label vaccine known as Imvanex (file)

Britons who have been in close contact with monkeypox cases are being given an off-label vaccine known as Imvanex (file)

Cases have also been announced in the US, Spain and Portugal, making it the most widespread monkeypox outbreak to date. Canada has suspected cases

Cases have also been announced in the US, Spain and Portugal, making it the most widespread monkeypox outbreak to date. Canada has suspected cases

There are a handful of antivirals and therapies for smallpox that appear to work on monkeypox, including the drug tecovirimat, which was approved for monkeypox in the EU in January

There are a handful of antivirals and therapies for smallpox that appear to work on monkeypox, including the drug tecovirimat, which was approved for monkeypox in the EU in January

Monkeypox can kill up to one in ten people who get it but the new cases have the West African variant, which is deadly for around one in 100.

Initial symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion.

A rash can develop, often beginning on the face, then spreading to other parts of the body including the genitals.

The rash changes and goes through different stages, and can look like chickenpox or syphilis, before finally forming a scab, which later falls off.

A vaccine, known as Imvanex, was approved in 2013 in the UK to treat smallpox, but studies have since shown it is 85 per cent effective at preventing monkeypox.

It is not approved for monkeypox in the UK but health professionals can use it 'off-label'.

Imvanex is already being offered to close contacts of positive cases and medics treating cases 'based on their risk factor'.

Monkeypox has an incubation period of up to 21 days, which is why positive cases and their contacts are being made to isolate for three weeks. 

Monkeypox is a rare viral infection which causes unusual rashes or lesions (shown in a handout provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US

Monkeypox is a rare viral infection which kills up to one in ten of those infected but does not spread easily between people. The tropical disease is endemic in parts of Africa and is known for its rare and unusual rashes, bumps and lesions (file photo)

Nurses and doctors are being advised to stay 'alert' to patients who present with a new rash or scabby lesions (like above)

Nurses and doctors are being advised to stay 'alert' to patients who present with a new rash or scabby lesions (like above)

HOW IS MONKEYPOX TREATED?

There are no specific drugs or vaccines developed for monkeypox, which until now had rarely been spotted in cases outside of Africa.

But antivirals and jabs designed to target smallpox have cross-over protection against monkeypox because the two viruses are genetically very similar.

Vaccine 

A vaccine, known as Imvanex, was approved in 2013 in the UK to treat smallpox, but studies have since shown it is 85 per cent effective at preventing monkeypox.

It is not approved for monkeypox in the UK but health professionals can use it 'off-label'.

Imvanex is already being offered to close contacts of positive cases and medics treating cases 'based on their risk factor'.

Imvanex contains a modified form of the vaccinia virus, which is similar to the family of viruses that cause smallpox and monkeypox but does not cause disease in people.

Because of its similarity to the pox viruses, antibodies produced against this virus offer cross protection.

Antivirals 

There are a handful of antivirals and therapies for smallpox and other illnesses that appear to work on monkeypox.

The drug tecovirimat was approved for monkeypox in the EU in January, and it is given in pillform.

Tecovirimat prevents the virus from leaving an infected cell, hindering the spread of the virus within the body. 

An injectable antiviral used to treat AIDS called cidofovir can be used to manage the infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US. It also works by stopping the growth of the virus.

Antibody therapy

A therapy that uses pooled blood from individuals who have been vaccinated with the smallpox vaccine can also be used to treat monkeypox.

Known as  vaccinia immune globulin (VIG), it was developed to treat people with severe smallpox who cannot get vaccinated themselves.

It works by injecting antibodies from a vaccinated person into a non-vaccinated person, with the hope of mounting a similar immune response.

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A spokesperson for the Department of Health said: 'We have taken active steps to be prepared for further cases of monkeypox in the UK and have secured thousands of doses

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