Britain sees daily infections from the rare monkeypox virus unrelated to travel to West Africa, where the disease is endemic, a health official said Sunday.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said new figures would be released on Monday, after registering 20 cases on Friday.
When asked whether community transmission is now the norm in Britain, UKHSA chief medical adviser Susan Hopkins said “absolutely”.
“We find cases that have no identified contact with a person from West Africa, which we have seen before in this country,” she told the BBC.
“We are detecting more cases every day.”
Hopkins declined to confirm reports that one person was in intensive care, but said the outbreak was concentrated in urban areas, among gay or bisexual men.
“The risk to the general population remains extremely low at this point, and I think people should be vigilant about it,” she said, adding that symptoms would be “relatively mild” for most adults.
The first British case was announced on May 7 in a patient who had recently traveled to Nigeria. The disease is also spreading in Europe and North America.
Monkeypox can be transmitted through contact with skin lesions and droplets from an infected person, as well as shared items such as bedding and towels.
Symptoms include fever, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, exhaustion, and a chickenpox-like rash on the hands and face. They usually disappear after two to four weeks.
There is no specific treatment, but vaccination against smallpox has been shown to be about 85 percent effective in preventing monkeypox.
Education Minister Nadhim Zahawi said the British government had already started buying up stocks of smallpox vaccine.
“We take it very, very seriously,” he told the BBC.
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