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A young child is being treated in intensive care after being struck down with monkeypox.
The youngster was yesterday getting specialist treatment in a London hospital as cases rose to 20 in the UK.
Prof Jonathan Ball, from Nottingham University, said: “The fact that we’ve got more than a handful of cases is very unusual. I’m surprised at the scale of human-to-human transmission.”
The infection causes a fever, headaches and a rash that creates large bulges of pus.
The current strain has a death rate of about 1%.
The other main strain, which has not been found outside Africa, is more serious with a fatality rate of 10%.
Dr Susan Hopkins, a chief medical adviser of the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), said more monkeypox cases are being detected on a daily basis.
She warned the illness is “relatively mild” in adults with young children more at risk.
Dr Hopkins said: “We know there’s been a period of restrictions across Europe and we don’t know where this infection has come from and how it’s come into Europe.
“There’s no obvious connection in our cases in the UK to a single event.”
Sir Peter Horby, of Oxford University’s Pandemic Sci-ences Institute, said: “The important thing is we interrupt transmission and this doesn’t become established in the human population in Europe.”
British scientists warned three years ago that monkeypox was a threat, and they held talks over the need to develop “new generation vaccines and treatments”.
Those who contract the virus will now have to self-isolate for three weeks.
This comes after it was announced that a 'superspreader' party was being investigated as the root cause of the outbreak in Spain.
In the Spanish capital, most of the country’s cases have been traced back to a sauna, according to officials.
Enrique Ruiz Escudero, the region’s health chief, told reporters this is the case after health officials said a “notable proportion” of the UK and European cases are in gay and bisexual men.
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