Another 14 monkeypox patients have been spotted in England as the tropical virus continues to sweep the world amid fears it may have mutated to spread easier between humans.
UK Health Security Agency bosses (UKHSA) have now confirmed 71 cases in the unprecedented global outbreak. At least one child has been sickened so far — but no-one has died. Officials have also warned the worst may still be to come.
England has logged 70 cases since the first case was publicised on May 7, while Scotland has recorded one. None have yet been detected in Wales or Northern Ireland.
Officials said a ‘notable proportion’ have occurred among gay and bisexual men but have not provided an exact breakdown. No gender or age details have been shared, either.
Dr Susan Hopkins, the UKHSA’s chief medical adviser, said new monkeypox cases were being spotted ‘promptly’ due to ‘extensive surveillance and contact tracing networks’.
Nineteen countries across the world – mainly in Europe – have already detected the smallpox-like virus, sparking concerns it may have learned to spread easier among humans.
Infections are only detected sporadically outside of west and central Africa, where the virus is endemic in animals. Although, imported outbreaks have always fizzled out naturally after a few cases.
Fears were fuelled today after analysis of the first few sickened patients suggested the virus has evolved ‘far more’ than expected. Portuguese scientists warned an ‘evolutionary jump’ — like what happened with Covid — may have created a ‘hyper-mutated virus’.
Health chiefs are alarmed about the cluster of cases. Yesterday experts warned that monkeypox could spread to pets and wildlife and become endemic in Europe. A WHO official yesterday claimed the leading theory explaining the spread of the disease was sexual behaviour at two raves held in Belgium and Spain.