The BRITS have been warned to be ‘alert’ for monkeypox when they reach popular tourist spots for the holidays this year.
The disease suddenly started spreading in 20 unlikely places around the world, including Europe.
The festivals – which Europeans on holiday attend – have been linked to outbreaks across the region, including in Spain, Italy and Germany.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said the explosion in cases is “a very unusual event”.
The agency’s European director, Dr Hans Henri Kluge, warned that in early summer across the continent, mass gatherings, festivals and parties could fuel the spread of monkeypox.
Dr Kluge said: ‘I’m concerned transmission is accelerating as the cases currently being detected are among those engaging in sexual activity, and the symptoms are unfamiliar to many.
Asked about the risk to Britons going to summer festivals or going on holiday, chief medical adviser Dr Susan Hopkins said people “need to be mindful” of the virus.
Dr Hopkins, from the UK Health and Safety Agency (UKHSA), told the BBC: “The risk to the general population [from monkeypox] remains extremely low.
“People need to be aware of this, and we really want clinicians to be aware of this.”
Downing Street said there were no plans to hold a meeting of the Cobra monkeypox emergency committee or impose travel bans.
Asked about travel restrictions from affected countries, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “No, no such considerations.
“What we’re seeing right now is community transmission unrelated to travel.”
Previously there had been just eight cases of monkeypox in the UK, all linked to travel from West Africa.
But that’s not the case for this outbreak, which has now seen at least 57 people infected in the UK.
There is already community transmission in the UK – but the UKHSA stresses the risk to the public is “low”.
Many more are expected to be diagnosed in the coming weeks, experts say.
The disease appears to disproportionately affect gay and bisexual men.
Health chiefs have warned gay and bisexual men to be on the lookout for new unexplained rashes.
Monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted disease, but can be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact during sex.
It causes flu-like symptoms before a rash spreads throughout the body.
Dr Hopkins’ comments came as some of Europe’s top holiday destinations reported virus outbreaks.
There are around 100 cases in Europe and North America, the WHO said on Monday.
Monkeypox in Europe
The complete list of European countries with confirmed cases of monkeypox are:
And elsewhere in the world:
European countries that have reported case
And elsewhere in the world:
A top WHO adviser has said the “random” outbreak of monkeypox could be explained by risky sexual behavior during two recent mass events in Europe.
A Gay Pride festival in Gran Canaria – attended by 80,000 people – has been linked to a number of cases in Madrid, Tenerife and Italy.
In Spain, which has the most monkeypox cases in Europe, infections in Madrid’s Malasaña district have been traced to a sauna – Sauna Paraíso – which has since been closed.
A number of other communities followed by reporting more cases, including Andalusia, Galicia, Catalonia, the Basque Country and Extremadura.
A report from the German government to lawmakers, obtained by the AP, said the risk of catching monkeypox “appears mainly to lie in sexual contact between men”.
The four confirmed cases in Germany have been linked to exposure at festive events, including in Gran Canaria and Berlin, he said.
Meanwhile, the three confirmed cases of monkeypox in Belgium have been linked to a large-scale fetish festival in the port city of Antwerp, it was revealed on Friday.
Dr David Heymann, who previously headed the WHO’s emergency department, said the main theory explaining the spread of the disease was sexual transmission among gay and bisexual men at two raves held in Spain and Belgium.
Dr. Heymann told AP that monkeypox is known to be spread through close contact with an infected person’s lesions.
It appears that sexual contact has now amplified this transmission, Dr. Heymann said.
Monkeypox typically infects people in Central and West Africa when it jumps from wild animals, such as rodents and primates, to humans.
It comes as Europe’s infectious diseases agency prepares to tell member states to prepare vaccination programmes, according to the Financial Times.
Any sting initiative would use an existing smallpox vaccine that also offers 85% efficacy against monkeypox.
Both viruses cause similar symptoms, although smallpox was eradicated in 1980 through the bites.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman has said there are no plans for a “large scale” vaccination program in the UK.
This came despite Health Secretary Sajid Javid ordering 20,000 more doses of the smallpox vaccine on top of the 5,000 already secured.
“We have vaccines purchased in significant quantities,” the prime minister’s spokesman said.
“But given the nature of this and the way we know it is spreading, it is believed that there is no clinical requirement for this type of large-scale campaign.”
The epidemics are atypical, according to the WHO, because they occur in countries where the virus does not circulate regularly.
Scientists are looking to understand where the cases originated and if anything about the virus has changed.
But for now, the WHO has no evidence that the virus has mutated.
The WHO said the confirmed cases were the least severe monkeypox virus cluster in West Africa so far.
MP Simon Clarke, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said it was not ‘a repeat of Covid’.
He said: “We’re certainly not in a position where I would worry the public anyway that it’s a repeat of Covid because it certainly doesn’t seem to be anywhere near the same platform of serious.”