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Number of confirmed monkeypox cases reaches 78

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Monkeypox is predominantly observed in MSM Monkeypox is predominantly observed in MSM

As of 24 May, the total number of monkeypox cases detected in the UK has reached 78, according to The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

Of these, 77 were found in England, with a further one detected in Scotland. As of 24 May, no cases have been identified in Wales or Northern Ireland. Despite further cases being detected, the risk to the UK population remains low.

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‘We are continuing to promptly detect new monkeypox cases through our extensive surveillance network and NHS services,’ said Dr Susan Hopkins, Chief Medical Adviser, UKHSA.

‘If anyone suspects they might have rashes or lesions on any part of their body, particularly if they have recently had a new sexual partner, they should limit their contact with others and contact NHS 111 or their local sexual health service as soon as possible – though please phone ahead before attending in person.’

A notable proportion of the cases identified to date have been among people who are gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men (MSM), so the UKHSA are asking these groups in particular to be aware of the symptoms, particularly if they have recently had a new sexual partner.

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Having managed to maintain a responsive health service throughout the COVID pandemic, there is a degree of mild anxiety amongst some healthcare providers that Monkeypox might become the next major pressure on our health services. Based on the evidence so far, transmission of Monkeypox is no where near as contagious as COVID. Our NHS emergency departments and urgent care services have precautionary measures to safeguard patients and staff from Monkeypox; although it would be reasonable to expect primary care to feel the initial impact most given that the appearance of Monkeypox is so similar to chickenpox. As a result of COVID we have learned a lot about infection, prevention and control lessons, and this time there is no shortage of appropriate PPE. In the event that Monkeypox emerges as a significant new threat clinicians should be much better equipped than at the start of COVID. So far the UKHSA and NHSE have demonstrated providing sound practical guidance and good communication.

Mike Paynter
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