The Spanish health authorities have warned of a possible outbreak of monkeypox (viruela del mono) in Spain, specifically in the Community of Madrid.
Monkeypox is an endemic disease in West and Central Africa, with cases reported in recent days in several countries in Europe and the United States.
On Wednesday, the Spanish Minister of Health, Carolina Darias, said on La Sexta TV that the Spanish National Center for Microbiology had identified 7 cases in the Community of Madrid. In addition, there were another 22 cases under study in the Spanish capital region.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Health Department of the Community of Madrid issued a statement and raised the number of suspected cases of monkeypox infection in the region to 23. These cases are currently under study in coordination with the National Center for Microbiology.
The disease may have been transmitted through body fluids during sexual intercourse. Most of the cases are young men who had sex with other men. However, experts warn that the virus - which is not a sexually transmitted disease - may affect both men and women equally.
Normally, this infection occurs through the respiratory tract, but the health authorities of the Community of Madrid said that in this case "everything indicates that the infection has occurred through contact with mucous membranes during sexual intercourse."
UK, Portugal, US
Outside of Spain, the first country to raise the alarm was the United Kingdom on May 6. Ten days later, Portugal reported 5 cases in its territory and another 20 under study.
On Wednesday, two additional cases where identified in Great Britain, bringing the total to nine, according to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).
In the United States, a case was found in the state of Massachusetts (north-east) by the country's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The infected person had recently travelled to Canada using private transport, the CDC noted.
The UKHSA is advising gay, bisexual and MSM men to check for any rashes or lesions on their bodies, particularly their genitals, and to contact a sexual health service if they are concerned.
Monkeypox can be passed on by direct contact through sex, but is not considered to be a sexually transmitted infection.
The health agency also said that initial symptoms of monkeypox include fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills, exhaustion and a striking rash on the skin, similar to that caused by chickenpox.
The rash, which can develop as part of the virus, changes and goes through different stages before finally forming a scab, which later falls off.
In the UK, the first case was a person who had recently travelled to Nigeria, which is where they were believed to have contracted the infection.