The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has said a further 104 cases have been confirmed in England today. There are currently 452 confirmed cases in England, 12 in Scotland, two in Northern Ireland and four in Wales.
Most cases so far have been in men who are gay, bisexual or have sex with men.
The UKHSA has issued a fresh warning to anyone with a rash with blisters that they should contact a sexual health clinic if they have also had close contact, including sexual contact, with someone who has or might have had monkeypox in the past three weeks.
People are also advised to contact a clinic if they have travelled to the west or central Africa in the past three weeks.
Monkeypox has become a notifiable disease in England, meaning all medics must alert local health authorities to suspected cases. Laboratories must also inform UKHSA if the virus is identified in a sample.
The disease spreads through close contact and was first found in monkeys. It mostly occurs in west and central Africa and only very occasionally spreads elsewhere.
More than 30 countries where monkeypox is not endemic have now reported outbreaks of the viral disease. The number of confirmed cases around the world is approaching 1,500, most of them in Europe.
While the UK has recorded the most cases so far, other countries have also seen big rises, including Spain with 259 cases, Portugal with 191 and Germany with 150 cases.
The Venezuelan government said on Sunday it had recorded its first case of monkeypox in a man who entered the country through its principal airport near Caracas after arriving from Madrid.
Monkeypox is very difficult to catch from someone carrying the infection and is mostly caught from infected wild animals in west of Central Africa.
However, the disease, first found in monkeys, can be transmitted from person to person through close physical contact, including sexual intercourse, and is caused by the monkeypox virus.
The illness for most people is mild with full recovery taking up to four weeks, while the chance of catching it in the UK is currently very low.
There is no direct vaccine for monkeypox but a form of smallpox vaccine – which hasn’t been used routinely in the UK since 1971 – is being used that is safe in individuals who are contacts of cases.
There is some evidence from the past that children get more severe symptoms, so public health teams are trying to shut down the virus’s spread as quickly as possible.
How can you catch monkeypox?
According to the NHS, you can catch monkeypox if you are bitten by an infected animal or if you touch its blood, body fluids, spots, blisters or scabs.
Catching it from an infected person is very uncommon, but transmission is possible through close physical contact including sexual intercourse, touching clothing, bedding, towels or other items used by someone with the rash.
Contact with their blisters or scabs or exposure to their coughs or sneezes could also put you at risk.
Health experts have said the infection can also be caught by eating meat from an infected animal that has not been cooked properly.
It is also possible to catch monkeypox by touching other products such as skin or fur which came from an infected animal.
The rare infection is mostly spread by rodents, such as rats, mice and squirrels, in parts of west or central Africa.
If people travel to destinations in those regions, they are advised to regularly wash their hands or use hand sanitizers and only eat meat that has been cooked thoroughly.
To further minimise infection, people should not go near wild or stray animals, including those that are dead or appear to be unwell.
What are the symptoms to look out for?
It normally takes between five and 21 days for symptoms to appear.
The initial symptoms include a high temperature, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen glands, shivering and exhaustion.
A rash will usually appear between one and five days after the first symptoms, beginning on the face and then spreading to other parts of the body.
It can be confused with chickenpox as it begins with raised spots.
The symptoms will usually disappear in two to four weeks, although some people will need hospital treatment. Anyone concerned about possible symptoms is being asked to come forward for a check-up.
What should I do if I have been in close contact with someone who has a monkeypox?
Contacts of monkeypox cases at high risk of having caught the infection should self-isolate for 21 days, according to the latest government guidance.
The UKHSA recommends people who have had “unprotected direct contact or high-risk environmental contact” should isolate for three weeks.
This includes no travel, providing details for contact tracing and avoiding direct contact with immunosuppressed people, pregnant women and children under 12.
Those who are considered at high risk of having caught monkeypox may have had household contact, sexual contact, or have changed an infected person’s bedding without wearing appropriate PPE, it says.
The UKHSA also advises that they are offered a smallpox vaccine.