LONDON (AP) — British health officials say the monkeypox epidemic across the country “shows signs of abating,” but it’s still too early to know if the decline will continue.
In a statement on Monday, the Health Security Agency said authorities were reporting around 29 new monkeypox infections each day, compared to around 52 cases per day in the last week of June. In July, officials estimated that the epidemic was doubling in size about every two weeks. To date, the UK has recorded over 3,000 cases of monkeypox, with over 70% of the cases in London.
The agency also said more than 27,000 people had been immunized with a vaccine designed against smallpox, a related disease.
“These thousands of vaccines, administered by the (National Health Service) to those most at risk of exposure, are expected to have a significant impact on the transmission of the virus,” the agency said. He said the vast majority of cases were in men who are gay, bisexual or have sex with men and that vaccines were prioritized for them and their closest contacts and health workers.
Britain last month downgraded its assessment of the monkeypox outbreak after finding no signs of sustained transmission of monkeypox beyond the sex networks of men who have sex with men; 99% of infections in the UK are in men.
British authorities said they had purchased 150,000 doses of the vaccine made by Bavarian Nordic, the world’s only supplier. The first 50,000 doses have already been deployed or will soon be shared with clinics across the country and the next 100,000 vaccines are expected to be delivered in September.
Monkeypox spreads when people have close physical contact with an infected person’s lesions, clothing, or bedding. Most people recover without needing treatment, but the lesions can be extremely painful, and more severe cases can lead to complications, including brain inflammation and death.
Globally, more than 31,000 cases of monkeypox have been reported in nearly 90 countries. Last month, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a global emergency and US authorities classified their outbreak as a national emergency.
Outside of Africa, 98% of cases are in men who have sex with men. With only a limited global supply of vaccines, authorities are racing to stop monkeypox before it becomes a new disease.
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