In the last 24 hours, the number of confirmed monkeypox cases outside of the African continent has jumped to 613 cases covering 28 countries.
The United Kingdom is turning out to be the hotspot for monkeypox infections with confirmed cases now rising to 180 and more than 784 individuals suspected of contracting the disease now under investigations with some placed in quarantine.
- U.K. health authorities have urged anyone who tests positive for the monkeypox virus to abstain from sex until their symptoms have cleared.
- The U.K. Health Security Agency also recommended that previously infected persons continue to use condoms for a period of eight weeks after the virus has passed to combat rising cases.
In new guidance released Monday, the U.K. Health Security Agency also recommended that previously infected persons continue to use condoms for a period of eight weeks after the virus has passed, as a precautionary measure.
The health agency said the risks to the general public remain low, but encouraged people to contact a health professional if they notice any unusual rashes or lesions.
Rising risks of sexual transmission
Monkeypox is a rare infectious disease typically found in Central and West African countries. Symptoms include rashes, fever, headaches, muscle ache, swelling and backpain.
While the virus is generally mild, usually clearing up on its own within two to four weeks, health experts have voiced concern over the recent spike in cases in countries where monkeypox does not usually spread, and the growing risks of community transmission.
The majority of cases so far have been spread through sex, with a particular concentration of cases occurring within the gay and bisexual communities and men who have sex with men, according to the World Health Organization.
Typically, poxviruses have low evolutionary rates of around one mutation per genome per year.
Researchers have found that Since 2017, the lineage leading to the recent samples has a peculiar mutation pattern where almost all mutations are G->A or C->T. https://virological.org/t/discussion-of-on-going-mpxv-genome-sequencing/802
The researchers have mapped the fraction of all mutations that are either G->A or C->T and the fraction of them that occur in the specific context (G followed by A for G->A, T preceding C for C->T mutations) onto a tree.
This change in mutation pattern likely marks the jump from the original host to humans or an intermediate host where a host enzyme (maybe APOBEC3) might mutate the genome. The rate of change increased 10 to 20-fold and is now around one change per month! https://nextstrain.org/groups/neherlab/monkeypox?c=dinuc_context_fraction&l=clock®ression=hide
This alarmingly indicates that the new monkeypox strain that is currently circulating is also mutating at a rapid rate and is a cause for major concern.
When asked on Monday whether the recent outbreak could escalate into a pandemic, the WHO’s technical lead for monkeypox, Dr Rosamund Lewis, said: “The answer is we don’t know, but we don’t think so.”
Dr Lewis added, “Monkeypox is a DNA virus, meaning it contains DNA in its genetic material. Health experts don’t yet know a lot more about its genetic makeup, but current data suggests that it doesn’t transmit or mutate as easily as other viruses like SARS-CoV-2 which is a RNA virus.”