An alert has been issued in Spain over eight suspected cases of monkeypox. Another five infections have also been confirmed in Portugal.
It comes following an outbreak of monkeypox in the UK where seven cases have so far been seen. The Spanish health ministry said a nationwide alert had been issued “to guarantee a swift, coordinated and timely response”, The Guardian reports.
The eight suspected cases in Spain were all in the Madrid region. Portugal’s were in the Lisbon and Tagus Valley area.
Spain’s potential cases were being analysed by the National Microbiology Centre, said The Guardian, quoting a spokesperson for Madrid’s regional health department. “Generally speaking, monkeypox is spread by respiratory transmission, but the characteristics of the eight suspected cases point towards fluid contact,” the spokesperson said.
“The eight suspected cases in Madrid are among men who have sex with men. They are doing well but this illness can require hospital treatment.”
The first UK case was a person who had recently travelled to Nigeria, which is where they were believed to have contracted the infection. The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) added that all four of the most recent cases self-identify as gay, bisexual or men who have sex with men.
The health body is therefore asking these groups “to be alert” to possible symptoms, which include rashes or lesions on any part of their body, especially their genitalia, and to contact a sexual health service if they have concerns.
The health agency emphasises that the virus does not spread easily between people and the risk to the UK population is low. Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser at the UKHSA said: “This is rare and unusual.
“UKHSA is rapidly investigating the source of these infections because the evidence suggests that there may be transmission of the monkeypox virus in the community, spread by close contact. We are contacting any potential close contacts of the cases to provide health information and advice.”
The rash, which can develop as part of the virus, changes and goes through different stages before finally forming a scab, which later falls off. The health agency also said that initial symptoms of monkeypox include fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion.