The number of confirmed and most likely monkeypox cases in the UK has risen to 2,859 as health officials said the outbreak was showing “early signs of a plateau”.
This represents a rise of 100 since the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA)’s previous announcement on Tuesday, after a jump of more than 200 in the four days prior.
Of the new cases included in Friday’s announcement, just 91 have been classified as “very likely” rather than confirmed, while 2,730 of the cases detected so far have occurred in England.
67 were in Scotland, 37 in Wales and 25 in Northern Ireland – with devolved nations up two, five and one respectively since Tuesday’s announcement.
Anyone can contract monkeypox, especially those who have close contact with an infected, symptomatic person, the UKHSA said. Currently, most cases involve gay and bisexual men, the agency added, and London has recorded more than 70 per cent of England’s cases.
Although the latest figures suggest that “the growth of the outbreak has slowed, we cannot be complacent,” warned Dr. Meera Chand, Director of Clinical and Emerging Infections at the UKHSA.
“Be vigilant and check yourself for monkeypox symptoms, including rashes and blisters. If you are concerned that you may have monkeypox symptoms, take a break from events, meeting friends, or having sex. Instead, stay home and call 111 or your local sexual health service for advice.”
But the Terrence Higgins Trust, which helped coordinate the national response to the virus infection, said “time is going pretty fast” to confine the outbreak to the capital, with worrying spikes reported in Manchester and Brighton.
The infection is believed to be transmitted from London via sexual networks. The trust’s head of policy, Ceri Smith, said there was evidence that men responsible for the vast majority of monkeypox cases traveled to the capital to attend sex events such as fetish nights and caught the virus before returning infected.
“The events are taking place in London but the people attending and possibly [being] People exposed to monkeypox might live elsewhere,” Ms Smith said. “We’ve seen that throughout the outbreak. So there were little pockets of diagnoses all over the country. It’s really hard to prove, but a lot seems to be connected to London.”
LGBT+ groups from across the political spectrum have called on the Government to step up efforts to tackle monkeypox or risk it becoming “endemic” in the UK.
UK health officials have called for calm, but now those in Westminster have urged Health Secretary Steve Barclay to take action because monkeypox had sparked real fear and concern in LGBT+ communities.
“We are united as LGBT+ groups from all political parties in asking that the government treat the monkeypox outbreak as a public health emergency,” a letter to Mr Barclay, written by the LGBT+ groups for the Conservatives , Labour, Liberal Democrats, Greens and Scottish Nationalists was signed party said.
“We cannot afford to let monkeypox become endemic in Britain. Fortunately, we now have the tools needed to stop this outbreak and prevent further health risks. We ask you to do this urgently.”