Warning as scientists discover monkeypox could be asymptomatic for first time | The Sun

MONKEYPOX could be spreading asymptomatically, scientists have warned.

For the first time, they have found evidence that the virus is present in men who are showing no symptoms.

It raises concerns about the ability to contain the virus using contact tracing.

The current monkeypox outbreak, which started in May and ramped up over the summer months, is highly unusual.

Monkeypox has been in Africa for decades and typically spread from contact with animals.

But in the UK, US, Europe and elsewhere, the main route of transmission has been sexual activity.

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Almost all cases are in men who have sex with men, with health chiefs warning people who are gay or bisexual to be extra vigilant of the symptoms and protective sex.

The new research, by Bichat–Claude Bernard Hospital, Paris, France, futher looked at the risk of monkeypox spread via sex.

It took anal swabs of 200 men (who have multiple sexual male partners) as part of a screening programme for those on medication for HIV or who are on PrEP.

The results showed that 6.5 per cent of samples (13) were positive for monkeypox.

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Only two of the 13 positive patients developed symptoms later on, according to the report published in Annals of Internal Medicine.

The symptoms may include achey joints, a fever, a rash and lesions on the genitals.

Although the men had signs of the virus in their body, it is not possible with this study to say if it is contagious, either through sex or otherwise. 

The doctors wrote: “Whether this indicates viral shedding that can lead to transmission is unknown.”

However, the current evidence suggests that spread of the virus from an infected person with no signs is possible.

The author of an accompanying editorial suggested that to control the outbreak, vaccination of high-risk people is key.

But it comes as the vaccine rollout in the UK comes to a slow, with some sexual health clinics running out of the jab entirely.

The UK Health Security Agency has said today that it has delivered 50,000 of the secured 150,000 doses to clinics and hospitals.

This is "the maximum amount available" at the moment, it added.

Clinics have said they do not expect the UK to receive any more vaccines until September. 

This means clinics and hospitals offering the jabs will have to turn away anyone who tries to book a vaccine over the next few weeks.

The last remaining 5,000 doses will be distributed by the NHS to those identified as at highest risk, by the end of August.

As of August 8, there are 2,914 confirmed and 103 highly probable monkeypox cases in the UK – 3,017 in total.

Of these, 2,883 are in England, up from 2,730 on August 4.

Spread through sex

Health chiefs have already warned men who have sex with men to be more cautious, by checking themselves for monkeypox symptoms before engaging in sex, for example.

Condoms should always be used to protect against STIs.

However, condoms alone cannot protect against monkeypox (which evidence suggests may be able to spread via semen).

That’s because the disease can be picked up from touching an infected person's rash or scabs.

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The rash, which starts around three days after flu-like symptoms, can last for around two weeks.

A person is contagious until their scabs have fallen off and a new layer of skin has healed over. 

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