US President Joe Biden has described the global Monkeypox virus outbreak as something “to be concerned about”.
Cases of the rare disease, which has similar symptoms to Smallpox, have been found in countries including the UK, United States, Israel and Switzerland.
So far, 20 cases have been confirmed in the United Kingdom - although this number is set to rise on Monday (23 May).
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the virus can be deadly but usually brings on mild symptoms.
So how is the virus being treated - and what warning has President Biden issued about it?
What is Monkeypox?
As its name suggests, it derives from monkeys but can also spread through wild animals, like rats, mice and squirrels.
It can jump across to humans if they are bitten by an infected animal, or touch its blood, bodily fluids, spots, blisters or scabs.
Scientists also believe it can be transmitted through meat from an infected animal that has not been cooked properly, or has come into contact with infected animal skin or fur.
Monkeypox does not easily spread between humans as it requires close physical contact to do so.
According to the NHS, you can get it from someone else by the following means:
- touching clothing, bedding or towels used by someone with the monkeypox rash
- touching monkeypox skin blisters or scabs
- the coughs or sneezes of a person with the monkeypox rash
Symptoms can take five to 21 days to appear, and can include:
- a high temperature
- a headache
- muscle aches
- swollen glands
- shivering (chills)
A rash also tends to appear between one and five days after the first symptoms come on, usually appearing on the face first before spreading to other parts of the body.
Symptoms typically clear up within two to four weeks.
So far, there have been 92 confirmed cases of Monkeypox around the world, with a further 28 suspected cases.
Affected countries include:
- The Netherlands
It’s believed the outbreak originated in West Africa, with the virus being most common in remote regions of central and western Africa.
The risk of catching Monkeypox in the UK is said to be low.
How is Monkeypox being treated in the UK?
On Sunday (22 May), Dr Susan Hopkins, a chief medical advisor for the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), warned there more cases would be confirmed “on a daily basis”.
She told BBC’s Sunday Morning programme that figures for the weekend would be released on Monday (23 May).
Dr Hopkins revealed doctors were now seeing community transmission and that cases were predominantly among people who identify as gay or bisexual or men who have sex with other men.
These cases were mostly being found in urban centres.
“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.
She also revealed how doctors were treating those who had been close contacts of cases.
“There is no direct vaccine for monkeypox but we are using a form of smallpox vaccine – a third-generation, smallpox vaccine that’s safe in individuals who are contacts of cases,” Dr Hopkins said.
“We’re not using it in the general population, we’re using it in individuals who we believe are at high risk of developing symptoms and using it early, particularly within four or five days of the case developing symptoms.
“For contacts, (this) reduces your risk of developing disease, so that’s how we’re focusing our vaccination efforts at this point.”
What did Joe Biden say about Monkeypox?
Joe Biden briefly commented on the Monkeypox virus outbreak on Sunday while on his first visit to Asia as US President.
In his first public comments about the disease, Mr Biden said: “It is a concern in that if it were to spread it would be consequential.”
He added: “They haven’t told me the level of exposure yet but it is something that everybody should be concerned about.”
Mr Biden also said the US was “working hard” on its response to the virus and vaccine development.
According to US national Security adviser Jake Sullivan, the US has supplies of a “vaccine that is relevant to treating monkeypox”.
Additional reporting by PA news agency