BRITAIN will see a "significant rise" in monkeypox cases within weeks as the disease spreads across Europe, a top doctor has predicted.
So far, 20 cases have been recorded in the UK, while more than 100 people on the continent have been infected.
And Dr Claire Dewsnap, president of the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV, says the medical community is bracing for more as the virus spreads.
The disease, which was first found in monkeys, can be transmitted from person to person through close physical contact – including sex.
Dr Claire told Sky News: "What worries me the most is there are infections across Europe, so this has already spread.
"It's already circulating in the general population.
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"It could be really significant numbers over the next two or three weeks."
She also warned that the virus could have a "massive impact" on access to sexual health services in Britain.
"It is already stretching the workforce and will have a massive impact if staff have to isolate if they are in close contact with someone who's infected," Dr Dewsnap said.
However, there is some good news – as she's not particularly worried about the infection itself.
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"In terms of the infection and its consequences for individuals, I'm not that concerned," she later told BBC Radio 4.
"But I am concerned about our ability to maintain good sexual health services and access for everyone while still managing this new infection."
The UK Health Security Agency has said a notable proportion of recent cases in Britain and Europe have been found in gay and bisexual men.
Countries including Spain, Portugal and central Africa are among those reporting outbreaks.
Yesterday, health chiefs in Spain reported 23 more confirmed cases. Most are linked to a sauna in Madrid.
"The speed in which we see people is really critical and monkeypox coming along shows us that more than ever before," Dr Dewsnap said.
'We need adequate funding so we can adequately staff with the experts that we need and the appropriately trained staff in clinics."
Meanwhile, Professor Sir Peter Horby, director of the Pandemic Sciences Institute at Oxford University, described the current monkeypox outbreak as "an unusual situation".
Sir Peter told BBC Radio 4 on Saturday: "It's transmitted by close person-to-person contact and, in the past, we have not seen it being very infectious.
"What's unusual about what we're seeing now is that we're seeing transmission occurring in the community in Europe and now in other countries, so it's an unusual situation where we seem to have had the virus introduced but now have ongoing transmission within certain communities."
Anyone with unusual skin lesions should "seek attention quickly," he said.
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Monkeypox is a usually mild infection, with symptoms including fever, headaches and a distinctive bumpy rash.
In Britain, authorities are offering a smallpox vaccine to healthcare workers and others who may have been exposed.
The seven symptoms of monkeypox you need to know
People infected with monkeypox will usually start to experience symptoms five to 21 days after initial infection
The NHS says the first symptoms are:
- A high temperature
- A headache
- Muscle aches
- Swollen glands
- Shivering (chills)
They added that a rash usually appears one to five days after the symptoms.
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