Monkeypox outbreak in Europe linked to ‘sex at two raves’, WHO fears

The monkeypox outbreak in the UK, which is currently confirmed to have infected at least 56 people so far, is thought to have started at two sex parties in mainland Europe.

World Health Organisation expert Dr David Heymann says that it’s likely that the DNA virus that causes the disease was brought to the UK by people who had engaged in intimate encounters at recent sex parties in Belgium and Spain.

“We know monkeypox can spread when there is close contact with the lesions of someone who is infected,” he said. “And it looks like the sexual contact has now amplified that transmission.”

The WHO has also confirmed cases of monkeypox in several other countries including the US, Germany, France, and Israel.

Spanish health officials say they have traced the monkeypox outbreak to a Gay Pride event in the Canary Islands that drew tens of thousands of revellers.

“It’s very possible there was somebody who got infected, developed lesions on the genitals, hands or somewhere else, and then spread it to others when there was sexual or close, physical contact,” Heymann told the New York Post.

“And then there were these international events that seeded the outbreak around the world, into the US and other European countries.”

Mike Skinner, a virologist at Imperial College London, added: “By nature, sexual activity involves intimate contact, which one would expect to increase the likelihood of transmission, whatever a person’s sexual orientation and irrespective of the mode of transmission”.

The virus does not usually spread easily between people, but it can be passed on through close person-to-person contact or contact with items used by a person who has monkeypox, such as clothes, bedding or cutlery.

Dr Susan Hopkins, Chief Medical Adviser for the UK Health Security Agency, said: “Because the virus spreads through close contact, we are urging everyone to be aware of any unusual rashes or lesions and to contact a sexual health service if they have any symptoms”.

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Dr Hopkins added: “A notable proportion of recent cases in the UK and Europe have been found in gay and bisexual men so we are particularly encouraging these men to be alert to the symptoms”.

Dr Heyman stressed that the disease is unlikely to become a pandemic.

“This is not Covid,” he said. “We need to slow it down, but it does not spread in the air and we have vaccines to protect against it.”

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