Eleven additional cases of monkeypox have been detected in the UK, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 20, the government said on Friday.
It comes as more than 100 monkeypox cases were found across Europe, with the normally-Africa-related disease also appearing in the United States, Canada, and Australia.
All confirmed UK cases were found in England, but only the first case had a recent travel history to Africa.
Dr. Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser transition lead at the Health Security Agency (UKHSA), said with its “active case finding,” the agency had anticipated the increase in the case numbers and expects the increase to continue in the coming days.
She also said the UKHSA continues to “rapidly investigate the source of these infections and raise awareness among healthcare professionals.”
The UKHSA didn’t say whether or to what extent the new cases are linked to each other or to previous cases, but there had been few known links reported among the previous nine cases.
Hopkins also said “a notable proportion of recent cases in the UK and Europe have been found in gay and bisexual men.”
Writing on Twitter, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said “most cases are mild,” and that the UK government had “procured further doses of vaccines that are effective against monkeypox.”
The government has some stocks of the smallpox vaccine, which can be effective against monkeypox as the viruses are quite similar.
This is being offered to very close contacts of those who have been affected.
By Friday, monkeypox cases have been detected in countries including the UK, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, France, Germany, the United States, and Australia.
Germany’s armed forces’ medical service on Friday described the outbreak as “the largest and most widespread outbreak of monkeypox ever seen in Europe.”
First identified in monkeys, the disease typically spreads through close contact and has rarely spread outside Africa, so this series of cases has triggered concern.
However, scientists do not expect the outbreak to evolve into a pandemic like COVID-19, given the virus does not spread as easily as the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
Symptoms of monkeypox include fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills, and exhaustion.
A rash can develop, often beginning on the face, which then spreads to other parts of the body including the genitals.
The rash can look like chickenpox or syphilis, and scabs can form which then fall off.
The incubation period of monkeypox is usually from six to 13 days but can range from five to 21 days.
Most patients recover within a few weeks, but severe illness can occur in some people.
Reuters and PA Media contributed to this report.