TUESDAY, May 17, 2022 (HealthDay News) -- Four men in England have been infected with a "rare and unusual" monkeypox virus.
Investigators from the United Kingdom's Health Security Agency are investigating the cases and whether there is any connection between the men, according to the Associated Press.
None of the individuals had traveled to the African countries where the virus is endemic. Three of the men are in London and one is in northeast England.
Three earlier cases were announced last week. In those cases, two of the patients lived in the same household. The third person had previously traveled to Nigeria, one of the countries where the virus is endemic in animals.
Most people who get monkeypox recover soon, within several weeks.
The virus has symptoms that include fever, muscle ache, chills and fatigue. A rash similar to that found in chickenpox and smallpox can form on the face and genitals in more severe cases.
The latest four cases all happen to be in men who identify as gay, bisexual or men who have sex with men. However, monkeypox doesn't easily spread between people and it isn't known to be transmitted sexually.
In western and central Africa, the virus is typically spread by touching or being bitten by an infected wild animal. However, it could be spread among people with extremely close contact, the British health officials said.
"The evidence suggests that there may be transmission of the monkeypox virus in the community, spread by close contact," said Dr. Susan Hopkins, the chief medical advisor for the U.K.'s Health Security Agency. "We are particularly urging men who are gay or bisexual to be aware of any unusual rashes or lesions and to contact a sexual health service without delay."
Public health officials consider the risk to the general population to be low. They're working with hospitals and international partners to determine if there is a similar rise in cases in other places. This includes tracing people who had contacts with the monkeypox cases, including airline passengers, the AP said.
The four men are being treated in London and Newcastle.
Doctors who see patients with unexplained rashes should seek advice from a specialist, public health officials said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on monkeypox.
SOURCE: Associated Press