Concern mounts over “unusual” monkeypox virus symptoms

July 4, 2022
Concern mounts over “unusual” monkeypox virus symptoms

Medical professionals in the UK are noticing that patients diagnosed with monkeypox are presenting with different symptoms from those seen in previous outbreaks including less fever and tiredness and more skin lesions in their genital and anal areas. This was observed in a recent study of patients at London sexual health clinics.

Monkeypox is a mild viral illness that is endemic in several countries in western and central Africa. It has recently caused a significant outbreak in Europe where more than 5,000 cases and one death has been reported. Cases have also risen in the countries where it more usually spreads, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The virus spreads chiefly among men who have sex with men – monkeypox can “mimic” other common sexually transmitted infections (STI) like herpes and syphilis and so warrants stringent review. The study of the London sexual health clinics also found that a quarter of the monkeypox patients were HIV positive, and a quarter had another STI.

“Misdiagnosis of the infection may prevent the opportunity for appropriate intervention and prevention of onward transmission,” said Dr. Ruth Byrne, from the Chelsea & Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

David Heymann, an infectious diseases epidemiologist and WHO advisor on the outbreak, pointed out that it was important to control the spread without stigmatising those affected, “[…] that includes working with populations at the greatest risk to try to help them understand how easy it is to prevent this infection – just by avoiding physical contact in the genital area [when a rash is present].”

As monkeypox spreads through close contact, researchers are also working to establish whether it can be transmitted via semen, the classic definition of sexual transmission.

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