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UK is stockpiling ‘thousands’ of monkeypox vaccines and drugs as experts fear dozens of infections are slipping under radar

  • Majority of UK’s nine cases not linked, suggesting virus spreading more widely  
  • Drug watchdog is ‘speedily’ trying to secure medicines to treat contagious virus
  • Health officials tell MailOnline ‘thousands’ of vaccine doses have been secured 

Britain is stocking up on thousands of monkeypox vaccines and treatments amid fears that the current spate of cases is the tip of the iceberg.

Nine Britons have been diagnosed with the contagious disease so far and the majority of cases are not linked, suggesting it is spreading more widely.

Britain’s drug watchdog told MailOnline it was monitoring the outbreak and ‘working with companies to speedily bring forward suitable treatments for monkeypox’. 

Health chiefs also revealed to MailOnline they have bought thousands of vaccine doses are already deployed them to close contacts of infected Britons. 

Antiviral drugs and jabs designed to target smallpox have cross-over protection against monkeypox, with the two viruses genetically very similar.

The latest outbreak has been described as ‘unusual’ by experts because person-to-person transmission of monkeypox was thought to be extremely rare.

Six of Britain’s cases are in gay or bisexual men, which officials say is ‘highly suggestive of spread in sexual networks’.

Cases have also been announced in the US, Spain and Portugal, making it the most widespread monkeypox outbreak to date. Canada also has suspected cases.

Nine Britons have been diagnosed with monkeypox and all but one of them appear to have contracted it in the UK. The original UK patient had brought the virus back from Nigeria, where the disease is widespread. At least three patients are receiving care at specialist NHS units in London and Newcastle

Britons who have been in close contact with monkeypox cases are being given an off-label vaccine known as Imvanex (file)

Monkeypox can kill up to one in ten people who get it but the new cases have the West African variant, fluoxetine and weight which is deadly for around one in 100.

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

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

The rash changes and goes through different stages, and can look like chickenpox or syphilis, before finally forming a scab, which later falls off.

A vaccine, known as Imvanex, was approved in 2013 in the UK to treat smallpox, but studies have since shown it is 85 per cent effective at preventing monkeypox.

It is not approved for monkeypox in the UK but health professionals can use it ‘off-label’.

Imvanex is already being offered to close contacts of positive cases and medics treating cases ‘based on their risk factor’.

Cases have also been announced in the US, Spain and Portugal, making it the most widespread monkeypox outbreak to date. Canada has suspected cases

Monkeypox is a rare viral infection which kills up to one in ten of those infected but does not spread easily between people. The tropical disease is endemic in parts of Africa and is known for its rare and unusual rashes, bumps and lesions (file photo)

Nurses and doctors are being advised to stay ‘alert’ to patients who present with a new rash or scabby lesions (like above)

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said: ‘We have taken active steps to be prepared for further cases of monkeypox in the UK and have secured thousands of doses of vaccines that are effective against monkeypox which are being used to protect key healthcare workers and at-risk individuals who may have been exposed.’

Sources said the Imvanex jab has been used to treat close contacts of monkeypox cases since 2018, when a small number of cases were detected with travel links to Africa.

There are a handful of antivirals and therapies for smallpox that appear to work on monkeypox, including the drug tecovirimat, which was approved for monkeypox in the EU in January. 

A spokesperson for the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority (MHRA) told MailOnline: ‘There is no approved vaccine or medicine for monkeypox in Great Britain.

But they added: ‘We are monitoring the situation closely and working with companies to speedily bring forward suitable treatments for monkeypox.’

Professor Kevin Fenton, London’s public health regional director, said it the outbreak in the capital continues to grow then the rollout of vaccines and treatments could be broadened to more groups.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘If we see more cases and it continues to spread then there are plans in place to ensure we have more antiviral agents in place to deal with that.

‘We’re watching closely to see how this spreads over the next week or two and then we’ll get a better sense of how to project and plan for the month ahead.’

Six of the UK’s nine cases are based in London, with two in the South East of England and one in the North East.

All but one of the UK patients — the first, who flew in from Nigeria — appear to have got infected in the UK. 

The US reported its first monkeypox case overnight, in a man from Massachusetts who had recently returned from Canada.

At least thirteen probable cases are being investigated in Canada, with tests being carried out to confirm the virus. 

Seven people have been diagnosed in Spain and dozens more are being monitored and tested for the disease. Portugal said at least five cases have been confirmed.


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.



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