A new study finds that the symptoms of monkeypox patients in the United Kingdom differ from those seen in previous outbreaks of the virus.
There have been fewer reports of fever and tiredness, but more reports of skin lesions in the genital and anal areas.
The location of the lesions suggests that they were transmitted during intimate contact, and researchers have called for more resources to support sexual health clinics.
“At the moment, the United Kingdom and several other countries are experiencing a rapid increase in monkeypox cases among people attending sexual health clinics, with no obvious links to countries where the disease is endemic.” “Dr. Nicolo Girometti of the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in London confirmed the findings. “Monkeypox is a novel diagnosis in the sexual health setting, and our study, the first to publish on cases from this outbreak in the United Kingdom, will aid in future case detection and clinical care.”
The study consists of 54 cases gathered from four London sexual health centers. Each had a confirmed laboratory infection.
Except for two patients, all said they had no idea they had come into contact with a known monkeypox case. None of them had visited Sub-Saharan Africa, where the disease is common. Many of them had recently traveled to other European countries.
Each patient is identified as a man who has sex with another man. Approximately 90% reported at least one new sexual partner in the previous three weeks. Almost everyone said they used condoms inconsistently. In the previous 12 weeks, more than half had more than five sexual partners.
Approximately 94% of patients had at least one lesion on their genitals or near the anus. The majority had minor illnesses, but five were hospitalized due to pain or infected skin lesions. All were later released.
“The commonly observed symptom of skin lesions in the anal and penile areas, as well as the fact that a quarter of the patients tested positive for gonorrhea or chlamydia concurrently with the monkeypox infection, suggests that transmission of the monkeypox virus in this cohort occurs from close skin-to-skin, for example, in the context of sexual activity,” said Dr. Ruth Byrne of the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. “However, because we are sexual health providers, this finding may be skewed and may not reflect transmission in the general population.”
She believes that monkeypox infection with these symptoms could be mistaken for common sexually transmitted infections like herpes and syphilis.
“Sexual health clinicians and patients must be aware of the symptoms of monkeypox because misdiagnosis of the infection may prevent appropriate intervention and prevent onward transmission,” Byrne said.
While fewer of these patients were weak, tired, or feverish than in previous outbreaks, approximately 18 percent had no symptoms before the appearance of skin lesions.
The authors cautioned that their findings may not be representative of the outbreak because they tested a specific group of infected people.
The findings were published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases on July 1.