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UK reports 77 new monkeypox cases

LONDON (AP) – British health officials reported 77 more monkeypox cases on Monday, raising the total to more than 300 across the country. To date, the United Kingdom (UK) has the biggest identified outbreak of the disease beyond Africa.

Health officials warn that anyone is potentially at risk of catching monkeypox if they are in close contact with a patient, their clothing or their bed sheets.

On Sunday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said more than two dozen countries that haven’t previously identified monkeypox cases reported 780 cases, a more than 200 per cent jump in cases since late May. No monkeypox deaths outside of Africa have yet been identified.

So far this year, there have been more than 1,400 monkeypox cases and 63 deaths in four African countries where the disease is endemic, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Genetic sequencing of the virus hasn’t yet shown any direct link to the outbreak outside Africa.

Monkeypox virions obtained from a sample of human skin. PHOTO: AP

WHO said the sudden and unexpected detection of monkeypox in numerous countries “suggests that there might have been undetected transmission for some unknown duration of time followed by recent amplifier events”.

WHO estimated the risk posed by monkeypox to global health was “moderate”, saying this was the first time that so many cases and clusters were reported across the world.

Until last month, the disease had not been known to cause large epidemics beyond central and west Africa. The ongoing outbreak of monkeypox in Europe and elsewhere, including Canada, Australia, Israel and the United States (US), marks the first time the disease has been known to spread among people who have no previous travel links to Africa.

US health officials said genetic analysis of recent monkeypox cases suggests there are two distinct strains in the country, raising the possibility that the virus has been circulating undetected for some time.

Most patients experience only fever, body aches, chills and fatigue. People with more serious illness may develop a rash and lesions on the face and hands that can spread to other parts of the body.

Last week, WHO’s top expert on monkeypox Dr Rosamund Lewis said she doubted the disease would trigger a pandemic, but said actions should be taken quickly to curb its spread so it doesn’t become entrenched in new areas.