Monkeypox: More UK cases confirmed 'on a daily basis' as community transmission spreads virus

The virus has also been found in the United States where President Joe Biden said 'everybody' should be concerned about its spread, as Charlie Frost reports

Further cases of monkeypox are being confirmed "on a daily basis" in the UK, a chief medical adviser has warned.

Dr Susan Hopkins, of the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), said updated figures for the number of confirmed cases will be released on Monday - with 20 cases confirmed so far.

She told BBC One’s Sunday Morning the rare virus was "absolutely" spreading via community transmission - the term used to describe when a person is infected without having been overseas or having been in recent contact with a confirmed case.

Those at high risk of having caught the infection should self-isolate for 21 days, latest government guidance says.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA)  also advises that they are offered a smallpox vaccine.

Handout image issued by the UK Health Security Agency of the stages of Monkeypox. Credit: UKHSA/PA

Cases of the smallpox-related disease had previously been seen only among people with links to central and West Africa, but now the UK, Spain, Portugal, Italy, the US, Sweden, Canada, and Israel have all reported infections.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified about 80 cases globally, and roughly 50 more suspected cases.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced on Friday the government would be stocking up on vaccines that are effective against monkeypox.

We should be 'cautiously careful' about the spread of monkeypox

Dr Bharat Pankhania, a senior clinical lecturer at the University of Exeter Medical School said medical experts "don't know the answer" yet as to why the rare virus is spreading now.

Dr Pankhania urged people to be "cautiously careful" due to the infection cropping up in various parts of the world.

"Without a doubt there is community transmission of monkeypox here in the UK and elsewhere," the expert in infectious disease control told ITV News.

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Dr Hopkins told the BBC "there is no direct vaccine for monkeypox" but added: "We are using a form of smallpox vaccine – a third-generation smallpox vaccine that’s safe in individuals who are contacts of cases."

She explained the vaccine was only being given to "individuals who we believe are at high risk of developing symptoms" rather than the general population.

"For contacts, [this] reduces your risk of developing disease, so that’s how we’re focusing our vaccination efforts at this point," she added.

Dr Hopkins said community transmission of the virus has been "largely centred in urban areas," adding: "We are predominantly seeing it in individuals who self-identify as gay or bisexual, or other men who have sex with men."

Monkeypox is a hard virus to transmit between humans, experts say. It needs very close contact, for example, skin to skin contact with an individual who is infected with a monkeypox rash.

"We would recommend to anyone who’s having changes in sex partners regularly or having close contact with individuals that they don’t know to come forward if they develop a rash," Dr Hopkins said.

It comes as US president Joe Biden said that recent cases of monkeypox which have been identified in Europe and the United States are something "to be concerned about".

In his first public comments on the disease, Mr Biden added: "It is a concern in that if it were to spread it would be consequential."