NEW monkeypox symptoms have been revealed by scientists who warn the bug “has no borders”.
Outbreaks across the globe were sparked in May and experts are still grappling with containing them.
Today, the largest review of cases so far, spanning 16 countries, has been published.
It’s already apparent that monkeypox causes a flu-like illness, with a rash spreading from the face around the body in the days following.
The rash looks similar to chickenpox, with the small spots (or lesions) becoming blisters before scabbing over as per multiple reports from scientists.
But reporting in the The New England Journal of Medicine, scientists said many infected people were seen with “symptoms not recognised” by current monkeypox definitions.
“These symptoms include single genital lesions and sores on the mouth or anus,” the paper said.
One in ten people had only a single skin lesion in the genital area, and 15 per cent had anal and/or rectal pain, Dr John Thornhill, a sexual health consultant and lecturer at Queen Mary University of London, said.
The findings back those of a recent analysis of London cases, published in the British Medical Journal.
It said of the 54 cases, “skin lesions on genitals appeared to be more common in this outbreak”, while fever and tiredness was less so
The concern is that these symptoms are being confused for other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as genital warts or syphilis, or even cold sores.
When cases slip through the net it makes containing the spread of the disease more challenging.
The paper said: “The clinical symptoms are similar to those of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and can easily lead to misdiagnosis.
“In some people, anal and oral symptoms have led to people being admitted to hospital for management of pain and difficulties swallowing.
“This is why it’s so important that these new clinical symptoms be recognised and healthcare professionals be educated on how to identify and manage the disease – misdiagnosis can slow detection and thus hinder efforts to control the spread of the virus.
“The study will therefore lead to increased rates of diagnosis when persons from at-risk groups present with traditional STI symptoms,” scientists said.
Monkeypox is not an STI but is predominately spread through sex, given that it it transmits with close skin contact.
Dr Thornhill said: “[Monkeypox] can be acquired through any kind of close physical contact.
“However, our work suggests that most transmissions so far have been related to sexual activity – mainly, but not exclusively, amongst men who have sex with men.”
The study also found “a large proportion of the semen samples tested from people with monkeypox”.
It comes after UK health officials warned of a “body of evidence” showing semen can contain monkeypox.
It is not clear whether this means the virus can be spread via sex, however, Brits have been told to use condoms for at least 12 weeks after recovering.
Professor Chloe Orkin, Queen Mary University of London and Director of the SHARE collaborative, warned: “Viruses know no borders and monkey pox infections have now been described in 70 countries and in more than 13,000 people.”
Vaccination programmes are being rolled out in order to protect the most vulnerable groups.
The disease is disproportionately affecting gay and bisexual men, including more than 95 per cent of the cases in the UK.
It comes as the NHS steps up its vaccination programme in London – the epicentre of the UK’s outbreak.
Of the 2,137 confirmed cases in the UK, 1,492 are in London.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said it had procured 100,000 more doses of an effective vaccine on Tuesday.
And now, NHS England said thousands more people who are eligible in the capital will now be contacted about getting their jab.
Those at highest risk, such as primary contacts and healthcare workers, will be invited to come forward for a jab at one of the 18 clinics.
Steve Russell, NHS director of vaccinations, said: “Thousands more people will be invited very shortly with the number of clinics expanded too.
“As we have done with the most successful Covid vaccination programme in history, the NHS will leave no stone unturned in ensuring everyone who is eligible can get protected.”
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