Health officials in the U.K. have identified an additional four cases of the Monkeypox virus, bringing to seven the total number of patients infected with the dangerous virus. According to a report in the Independent, the most recent cases of the zoonotic disease which can be fatal in up to 10 percent of its victims, were among gay, bisexual, or men who have sex with men, and who appeared to have contracted the disease in London. Monkeypox virus is endemic to central and western Africa, and U.K. health officials are reacting swiftly to the most recent outbreaks.
“The evidence suggests that there may be transmission of the monkeypox virus in the community, spread by close contact,” Dr. Susan Hopkins, Chief Medical Adviser at the U.K. Health Security Agency, said in a statement released Monday and posted to social media. “We are particularly urging men who are gay and bisexual to be aware of any unusual rashes or lesions and to contact a sexual health service without delay.”
The first cases of the virus were discovered earlier this month. A man who traveled to Nigeria was the first reported case on May 7. Two additional cases were reported in the man’s household the following week.
Monkeypox is a zoonotic orthopoxvirus that appears similar to smallpox, although significantly less deadly. Most outbreaks in Europe and elsewhere in the Western Hemisphere are related to the exotic pet trade and international travel.
Despite its name, rodents are believed to be the natural reservoir for the Monkeypox virus. Infections have been observed in squirrels, rats, mice, monkeys, prairie dogs, and humans.
The virus was first isolated and identified in 1958 in monkeys at a research facility in Denmark became sick. The first human case was reported in 1970 from a child in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Initial symptoms of Monkeypox virus include fever, headache, myalgia, fatigue, and swelling of the lymph nodes. After one to two days, lesions may develop in first the mouth and later on the face and extremities like the palms and soles. The rash may further spread, and the number of lesions can range from just a few to thousands.