Unusual cases of monkeypox
Since 1970, monkeypox cases have been reported in 11 African countries. Nigeria has had a large outbreak since 2017 – so far this year there have been 46 suspected cases, of which 15 have since been confirmed, according to the WHO.
The first European case was confirmed on May 7 in an individual who returned to England from Nigeria.
Since then, more than 100 cases have been confirmed outside Africa, according to a tracker by a University of Oxford academic.
Many of the cases are not linked to travel to the continent.
As a result, the cause of this outbreak is unclear, although health authorities have said that there is potentially some degree of community spread.
In Britain, where 20 cases have now been confirmed, the UK Health Security Agency said the recent cases in the country were predominantly among men who self-identified as gay, bisexual or men who have sex with men.
The 14 cases in Portugal that were all detected in sexual health clinics are also in men who self-identify as gay, bisexual or men who have sex with men.
It is too early to say if the illness has morphed into a sexually transmitted disease, said Alessio D’Amato, health commissioner of the Lazio region in Italy. Three cases have been reported so far in the country.
Sexual contact, by definition, is close contact, added Stuart Neil, professor of virology at Kings College London.
“The idea that there’s some sort of sexual transmission in this, I think, is a little bit of a stretch,” he said.
Scientists are sequencing the virus from different cases to see if they are linked, the WHO has said. The agency is expected to provide an update soon.