Monkeypox 'may be too late to contain and will be hard to stamp out', say experts

MONKEYPOX in the UK will “be hard to stamp out”, an expert has said, as the World Health Organization says it could be “too late”.

There have been 190 cases of monkeypox detected in the UK so far, health chiefs say, and 550 worldwide.


Professor John Edmunds, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said the outbreak will likely last a number of months.

Health officials will be using contact tracing to find more cases of the virus and try to contain it.

But Prof Edmunds, a leading epidemiologist and scientific adviser to the Government, said it will be a “lot of work” – but ultimately it is controllable.

Prof Edmunds said the fact that so many infections have been “cropping up all over the world” indicated there was “going to be a problem”.

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“You’re not going to get rid of it overnight,” he told The Independent.

“It’s going to take a good couple of months of really solid work to chase up all the infections and contacts and stamp it out.

“It will take a while. Public health teams are chasing all of these chains of transmission — some of them are going to be cryptic for all kinds of reasons.

“And the incubation period [the time between infection and symptoms] is quite long — nine or 10 days, possibly even longer.

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“So chains of transmission are slow, which is good. It gives you time to contact trace. On the other hand, if you’re missing some cases, then it’s going to bubble along for a while.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) said the number of cases seen so far could be the “tip of the iceberg”.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the sudden appearance of monkeypox in unlikely countries suggests the virus has been spreading undetected for some time.

While it is endemic in West and Central African nations – with 9,000 cases a year – its emergence elsewhere has been unexpected.

Dr Rosamund Lewis, the WHO’s monkeypox technical lead, said at a press conference on Wednesday: “We don’t really know whether it’s too late to contain.

“What WHO and all member states are trying to do is prevent onward spread.”

So far, there have been 190 confirmed cases of monkeypox identified from 6th to 31st May in the UK.

Monkeypox appears to be spreading from person to person in England, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said on Wednesday.

"The current outbreak is the first time that the virus has been passed from person to person in England where travel links to an endemic country have not been identified," the agency said.

According to the UKHSA, the majority of cases in the UK – 132 – are in London.

And 111 cases are known to be in gay, bisexual, or other men who have sex with men (GBMSM). Only two cases are in women.

Monkeypox can affect anyone, but many of the most recent diagnoses are the GBMSM community.

Many of them live in, or have links to London, said Kevin Fenton, London's regional director for public health.

"As with any new disease outbreak, the risk of stigma and uncertainty is great," he said.

Recent foreign travel to a number of different countries in Europe has been reported by 34 confirmed cases, or about 18 per cent.
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So far, the UKHSA has identified links to gay bars, saunas and the use of dating apps in Britain and abroad.

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"Investigations continue but currently no single factor or exposure that links the cases has been identified," the agency cautioned.

Monkeypox typically causes flu-like symptoms and pus-filled skin lesions that usually resolve on their own within weeks, but can kill a small fraction of those infected.

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