Monkeypox needs ‘substantial public health response’, says Covid vaccine expert


Sir Andrew Pollard (pictured today after being knighted by the Prince of Wales for services to public health), who helped develop the AstraZeneca vaccine, said that while the tropical virus outbreak does not pose the same threat as Covid, a strong response is needed to control it

The UK’s monkeypox outbreak requires a ‘substantial public health response’, one of the country’s leading Covid experts argued today as cases in Britain hit 321. 

Sir Andrew Pollard, who helped develop the AstraZeneca vaccine, said that the tropical virus outbreak does not pose the same threat as Covid.

However, he warned that actions were still needed to contain it. Sir Andrew did not specify what he meant.

Speaking after being knighted by the Prince of Wales for services to public health, he noted that monkeypox ‘doesn’t spread as well as Covid’ and ‘rarely’ causes severe disease.

His comments come as UK Health Security Agency bosses today confirmed 18 more infections in England since Monday, and one in Scotland. It brings the UK total to 321.

No further details were given but gay and bisexual men ‘remain disproportionately affected’, officials said. 

London remains the epicentre of the outbreak, which has now almost reached 40 countries. 

Since the virus was first detected on May 6, 305 cases have been logged in England, while Scotland has reported 11, two have been spotted in Northern Ireland and three in Wales.

The UK has recorded the most cases in the ever-growing worldwide cluster, followed by Spain (199), Portugal (166) and Canada (100). 

Monkeypox is now a notifiable disease in England and Northern Ireland, meaning all medics must alert local health authorities to suspected cases. The tropical virus now carries the same legal status as the plague, rabies and measles.

Timeline of monkeypox 

1958: Monkeypox was first discovered when an outbreak of a pox-like disease occurred in monkeys kept for research.

1970: The first human case was recorded in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the infection has been reported in a number of central and western African countries since then.

2003: A Monkeypox outbreak occurred in the US after rodents were imported from Africa. Cases were reported in both humans and pet prairie dogs. All the human infections followed contact with an infected pet and all patients recovered.

SEPTEMBER 8, 2018: Monkeypox appeared in the UK for the first time in a Nigerian naval officer who was visiting Cornwall for training. They were treated at the Royal Free Hospital in London.

SEPTEMBER 11, 2018: A second UK monkeypox case is confirmed in Blackpool. There is no link with the first case in Cornwall. Instead, the patient is though to have picked up the infection when travelling in Nigeria. They were treated at Blackpool Victoria Hospital and Royal Liverpool University Hospital.

SEPTEMBER 26, 2018: A third person is diagnosed with monkeypox. The individual worked at Blackpool Victoria Hospital and treated the second Monkeypox case. They received treatment at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle.

DECEMBER 3, 2019: A patient was diagnosed with monkeypox in England, marking the fourth ever case.

MAY 25, 2021: Two cases of monkeypox were identified in north Wales. Both patients had travel links to Nigeria.

A third person living with one of the cases was diagnosed and admitted to hospital, bringing the total number ever to seven.

MAY 7, 2022: A person was diagnosed with Monkeypox in England after recently travelling to Nigeria. The person received care at the expert infectious disease unit at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust in London.

MAY 14, 2022: Two more cases were confirmed in London. The infected pair lived in the same household but had not been in contact with the case announced one week earlier.

One of these individuals received care at the expert infectious disease unit at St Mary’s Hospital in London. The other isolated at home and did not need hospital treatment.

MAY 16, 2022: Four more cases were announced, bringing the UK total to seven. Three of these cases are in London, while one of their contacts is infected in the north east of England.

The spate of cases was described as ‘unusual’ and ‘surprising’ as experts warn gay and bisexual men to look out for new rashes.

MAY 19, 2022: Two more cases were revealed, with no travel links or connections to other cases. The cases were based in the South East and London. Fears began to grow that infections are going undetected.

MAY 20, 2022: Eleven more cases are announced, meaning Britain’s monkeypox outbreak have doubled to 20. Minsters discuss the possibility of a public health campaign to warn gay men the disease may be more prevalent for them

MAY 23, 2022: Scotland logs its first ever monkeypox case and 36 more infection announced in England. It brings the UK total to 57. 

MAY 24, 2022: England logs another 14 cases, bringing the UK total to 71.

MAY 25, 2022: Another seven infections are spotted in England, meaning 78 cases have been detected in the UK.

MAY 26, 2022: Wales and Northern Ireland detect their first monkeypox case in the recent outbreak, while Scotland spots two more cases and England logs eight, bringing UK total to 90. 

MAY 27, 2022: England detects 16 more cases, meaning 106 people in Britain have confirmed infections. 

MAY 29, 2022: World Health Organization (WHO) says risk of monkeypox is ‘moderate’, citing concerns about virus infecting children and immunosuppressed people if it becomes more widespread. 

MAY 30, 2022: The UK detects another 71 monkeypox cases, bringing the UK total to 179. Cases jumped 70 per cent in just three days. 

MAY 31, 2022: Eleven infections are spotted across the UK, bringing the infection toll to 190.

JUNE 1, 2022: Another five cases are spotted in England and one is detected in Scotland, meaning the UK has now logged 196.

JUNE 2, 2022: The UK spots another 11 cases in England, bringing the UK total to 207.

JUNE 3, 2022: A further 18 cases are logged – 15 in England and three in Scotland, bringing Britain’s monkeypox infection toll to 225.

JUNE 6, 2022: Seventy-three cases are spotted in England, 2 in Scotland and 2 in Wales, bringing the UK total to 302.

JUNE 8, 2022: Some 18 people in England and one in Scotland test positive, meaning 321 people have had infections confirmed.

Sir Andrew said: ‘The monkeypox virus doesn’t spread as well as Covid does, it also very rarely causes the severity of disease that Covid does, and so spread in the general population is extremely unlikely.

‘That doesn’t mean that we don’t need a substantial public health response to control it but it’s not a threat to the whole of public health in the way Covid was.’

He was knighted at Windsor Castle today for his services during the pandemic.

On being knighted, Sir Andrew said: ‘Absolutely wonderful to be here at Windsor Castle and to receive a knighthood, which I really feel has been on behalf of a huge number of people that have been involved in the development of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

‘I think one of the other very nice things in speaking with the Prince of Wales was that he also recognised how important the team was.

‘And he actually asked about the team of staff that we have at the Oxford Vaccine Group who have been working so hard over the last few years and extended his thanks to them for all the work they did.’ 

Meanwhile, the UKHSA advised Britons to contact their sexual health clinic if they have a rash with blisters and have been in close contact with a suspected or confirmed monkeypox case or have been in West or Central Africa in the last three weeks.

A large proportion of cases so far have been identified in the gay, bisexual and men who have sex with other men community. 

But anyone can get monkeypox if they have had close contact with an infected person.

Monkeypox is not normally a sexually-transmitted infection, but it can be passed on by direct contact during sex.

It can also be spread through touching clothing, bedding or towels used by someone with the monkeypox rash.

According to the UKHSA, monkeypox does not usually spread easily between people and the overall risk to the UK population remains low.

The disease is usually mild but can cause severe illness in some cases.

Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion.

A rash can develop, often beginning on the face, which then spreads to other parts of the body including the genitals.

It comes as the UKHSA yesterday declared the virus a notifiable disease. It said laboratories must also tell it if the virus is identified in a sample.

Wendi Shepherd, monkeypox incident director at UKHSA, said: ‘Rapid diagnosis and reporting is the key to interrupting transmission and containing any further spread of monkeypox.

‘This new legislation will support us and our health partners to swiftly identify, treat and control the disease.

‘It also supports us with the swift collection and analysis of data which enables us to detect possible outbreaks of the disease and trace close contacts rapidly, whilst offering vaccinations where appropriate to limit onward transmission.’

Professor David Heymann, an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: ‘Making monkeypox a notifiable disease suggests a desire to be sure to have reporting from all sectors (public and private) and all parts of the NHS.

‘It suggests that the Government wants to focus surveillance on the entire population – not only on the risk groups identified so far.

‘This will permit clear identification of all risk groups and help better understand the epidemiology and extent of spread.’

Making monkeypox a notifiable disease will also help businesses who could suffer financial losses from the outbreak.

The same move was made for Covid before the first lockdown.

Officials said at the time it would ‘help companies seek compensation through their insurance policies in the event of any cancellations that they may have to make as a result of the spread of the virus’.

Northern Ireland today followed suit, with the nation’s chief medical officer Sir Michael McBride saying health chiefs have been ‘working closely with trusts and GPs to raise awareness of the disease and this move formalises that arrangement.’

Meanwhile, MailOnline yesterday revealed the first British monkeypox patient to go public is an HR manager from London.

James M, 35, spoke out after claiming that health chiefs had not contacted him despite being diagnosed with monkeypox nearly a fortnight ago.

He was readjusting to life in west London when he began suffering from ‘really weird aches’ in his lower back, exhaustion, extreme thirst and pain when he used the toilet.

James — who wished to keep his surname anonymous — became convinced he had a sexually transmitted infection (STI) after sleeping with around 10 new partners in the weeks before his symptoms started.

But medics wrongly assumed it wasn’t monkeypox because he didn’t have the virus’ tell-tale rash. 

He had just returned from Dubai, where being gay is illegal, after four years following a ‘shock’ HIV diagnosis in February. It saw him lose his job and home.

‘I’m a gay man, and having just come back to the UK, I was having a good time,’ he told MailOnline.

After contacting his local STI clinic in west London, James was sent for tests at a specialist centre in Soho on May 25 and was told to avoid public transport or close contact with others. 

‘When I got to the clinic I was told to go and wait outside the main door and call them, they said they were going to put on PPE and they told me not to touch door handles,’ he said.

‘The whole experience kind of heightens your sense of, ‘oh this must be really serious’. I remember going to Covid centres and it wasn’t as daunting or overwhelming as this.’

At the time, several dozen people had already been diagnosed with the mystery monkeypox virus and it was clear the virus was spreading in London among gay and bisexual men.

But James claims he was assured by medics that his symptoms could not be the rare disease because he did not have its hallmark lesions, scabs or spots.

On May 28, three days later, a PCR test confirmed that he was in fact infected with monkeypox.

A letter sent by Chelsea and Westminster NHS Foundation Trust, seen by MailOnline, instructed him to ‘stay in isolation at home until further review from the team’ at UKHSA.

James yesterday said he had still not been contacted, despite eight days passing since the letter was issued. He claims he has phoned his local STI clinic every day since the diagnosis.

The UKHSA claims it has tried on multiple attempts to get in touch with James.

James slammed the UKHSA for ‘a real lack of any basic process or care to stop the spread’ of the tropical virus.

The infection often starts with small bumps that scab over and are contagious

The infection often starts with small bumps that scab over and are contagious

Officials are urging gay and bisexual men to be aware of new lesions, rashes or scabs and get in contact with a sexual health clinic. They have released these images of cases to alert people to the virus' symptoms

Officials are urging gay and bisexual men to be aware of new lesions, rashes or scabs and get in contact with a sexual health clinic. They have released these images of cases to alert people to the virus’ symptoms

Pictured: First monkeypox patient to go public is a gay HR manager from London 

The first British monkeypox patient to go public is an HR manager from London who caught the virus after being deported from Dubai for testing positive for HIV, MailOnline can reveal. 

James M, 35, has spoken out after claiming that health chiefs still haven’t contacted him despite being diagnosed with monkeypox nearly a fortnight ago.

He slammed the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) for ‘a real lack of any basic process or care to stop the spread’ of the tropical virus, which has so far infected more than 300 Britons, mostly gay and bisexual men.

James — who wished to keep his surname anonymous — admitted he is not following self-isolation rules because ‘I was told to stay home until UKHSA contacted me… and they never did.’ 

He accused the UK of having a lackadaisical approach to contact tracing, saying it was ‘no wonder’ Britain had more cases than any other country outside of Africa. There is also a lack of awareness about monkeypox’s lesser-known symptoms, he claimed. 

James was readjusting to life in west London when he began suffering from ‘really weird aches’ in his lower back, exhaustion, extreme thirst and pain when he used the toilet.

He became convinced he had a sexually transmitted infection (STI) after sleeping with around 10 new partners in the weeks before his symptoms started. 

‘I’m a gay man, and having just come back to the UK, I was having a good time,’ he told MailOnline. 

But medics wrongly assumed it wasn’t monkeypox because he didn’t have the virus’ tell-tale rash. 

James M, 35, has become the first British monkeypox patient to go public

James M, 35, has become the first British monkeypox patient to go public

He admitted he is not following self-isolation rules because ‘I was told to stay home until UKHSA contacted me… and they never did.’

James told MailOnline: ‘It’s no wonder now we’re getting so many more infections if no contact tracing or awareness about you not needing the spots to have the virus being told to people.

‘No-one’s asked me who I’ve been in contact with. I was told that within 24 hours of my diagnosis someone from UKHSA would call me.

‘I’ve called the clinic every day, asking ‘why aren’t they calling me, I’m not allowed outside and not allowed to go work. The UKHSA is not calling me, someone needs to document this.”

The UKHSA says its teams are contacting high-risk contacts of confirmed cases and advising them to self-isolate at home for three weeks and avoid contact with children.

Officials said they have linked the outbreak back to ‘gay bars, saunas and the use of dating apps in the UK and abroad’. 

MailOnline revealed last month that the world’s biggest gay dating app Grindr had alerted to users of monkeypox symptoms. 

Both confirmed cases and close contacts in the UK are being offered the Imvanex vaccine to form a buffer of immune people around a confirmed case to limit the spread of the disease.

The strategy, known as ring vaccination, has been used in previous monkeypox outbreaks and is also being carried out in some EU countries.

The jab is thought to reduce a person’s chance of catching monkeypox by up to 85 per cent.

Analysis by the UKHSA last week revealed that more than 60 per cent of domestic infections have been among gay and bisexual men.

Almost nine in 10 were based in the epicentre London and only two cases have been women.

Most of the UK’s infections — 87 per cent — were among people aged 20 to 49.

And the majority of UK patients caught the virus in the UK rather than abroad.

Monkeypox, which was first discovered in lab monkeys in the late 1950s, is usually mild but can cause severe illness in some cases. 

It can kill up to 10 per cent of people it infects. But the milder strain causing the current outbreak kills one in 100 — similar to when Covid first hit. 

No monkeypox deaths linked with the ongoing outbreak have yet been reported.

The virus has an incubation period of anywhere up to 21 days, meaning it can take three weeks for symptoms to appear.

Experts have warned that monkeypox could spread to pets and wildlife and become endemic in Europe.

In Africa, where monkeypox is well established, the virus is often in rodents including squirrels and hedgehogs.

The UKHSA is already quarantining pet guinea pigs, rats and mice of infected people for three weeks.

Other household pets like cats and dogs should be kept isolated at home but receive regular vet checks to ensure they are not infected

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk