British health officials said on Friday that the monkeypox outbreak across the country may have peaked and the rate of growth of the epidemic has slowed.
The UK’s Health Security Agency said in a statement that there were “early signs of the outbreak plateauing”, with 2,859 cases detected since May. No deaths occurred. Last month, officials estimated the outbreak was doubling every two weeks, but the number of new infections has declined in recent weeks.
“Although recent data suggest that outbreak growth has slowed, we cannot be complacent,” said Dr Meera Chand, director of clinical and emerging infections at the Health Security Agency. She said anyone who thinks they have monkeypox should avoid meeting friends, social gatherings and sexual intercourse.
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A recent analysis of the outbreak by the Health Security Agency “shows that monkeypox is primarily transmitted within interconnected sexual networks of men who are gay, bisexual, or have sex with other men.” More than 70% of the UK’s cases are in London.
British officials noted a small number of infections among women, but said there was insufficient evidence to suggest that monkey pox spread beyond homosexuals and bisexuals; 99% of all cases in the UK are men.
Scientists analyzing monkeypox viruses in the UK found many mutations compared to viruses circulating in Africa, but said there was no evidence that those genetic changes made monkeypox more widespread.
Experts suspect that monkeypox outbreaks in North America and Europe may have originated in Africa long before the disease spread through sex at two raves in Spain and Belgium.
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The World Health Organization said this week that 92% of monkeypox cases outside Africa are likely to be transmitted through sex, and its director-general recently urged vulnerable gay and bisexual men to consider cutting down on their sexual partners “for now”.
To date, more than 26,000 monkeypox cases have been reported in nearly 90 countries, a 19% increase over the past 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 gay or bisexual men and some men who are at increased risk of contracting the virus. Sexual partners or participants in group sex.
Last month, the UK lowered its assessment of the monkeypox outbreak and recommended that contacts of cases of monkeypox should self-isolate for three weeks if they do not have symptoms. The change was prompted by the fact that only a small number of contacts become ill with monkeypox and the lack of evidence that the disease is spread through close, intimate or non-sexual contact.
On Thursday, the US declared the monkeypox outbreak a national emergency, following the WHO’s declaration of a global emergency last month.
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Monkeypox is spread through close, physical contact with an infected person’s wounds, their clothing or bed sheets. Most people recover without needing treatment, but the injuries can be very painful and more severe cases can lead to complications including encephalitis and death.