Health authorities in the U.K. have released new photos of monkeypox symptoms as cases continue to rise around the globe.
The images shared by the U.K. Health Security Agency show skin lesions characteristic of infection with monkeypox. The photos, which show the rash on areas of the body including the hand and face, have been released to raise awareness of monkeypox symptoms.
Monkeypox is a rare virus that causes symptoms including fever, chills and an often painful rash. Historically, it’s tended to jump from animals to humans. But it can also spread from person to person via direct contact — such as during sex.
Between May 6 and May 30, 190 cases have been reported in the U.K.: 183 in England, 4 in Scotland, 2 in Northern Ireland and 1 in Wales.
The vast majority (132) of England’s cases have been found in London residents. Most of these are in gay or bisexual men, or other men who have sex with men. The UKSHA says initial contact tracing has linked some cases to dating apps, saunas and gay bars, but no specific factor or exposure has been identified.
For this reason, public health officials have asked men who have sex with men to be on particular alert for symptoms. Authorities are working with organisations like the Terrence Higgins Trust and Stonewall to try and communicate accurate information about the virus, while minimising stigma.
London Regional Director for Public Health Professor Kevin Fenton said: “Monkeypox can affect anyone, but we know that many of the most recent diagnoses are in gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men, many of whom live in, or have links to London.
“As with any new disease outbreak, the risk of stigma and uncertainty is great. This is why we’re working side by side with the NHS, sexual health, voluntary and community sector organisations in London to share accurate information about monkeypox especially to people and groups at increased risk through representative voices.”
People who have had close contact with someone infected with monkeypox are being given a smallpox vaccines called Imvanex which is known to reduce the risk of severe illness and further transmission.
Some people have also been advised to isolate for 21 days.
Despite the rising figures, monkeypox is still considered very rare, with the risk to the general public thought to be low. Experts don’t believe monkeypox is going to become the next Covid-19, for example, in large part because it is far less transmissable.
But the outbreak is still a concern for health officials, as it’s the first time many countries are seeing cases in people who don’t have any travel links to countries where the virus is considered endemic.
More resources about monkeypox — and how to stay safe during the outbreak — can be found on the websites of groups like the Terrence Higgins Trust and the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV.