Monkeypox appears to be spreading globally for the first time in an outbreak that has caught health officials off-guard.
The UK has recorded seven cases of the virus but the majority of them are not linked which suggests more are going undetected.
Spain and Portugal have also spotted the virus for the first time ever and the US is monitoring six people who were on a flight with a positive case.
The majority of patients in the UK are gay or bisexual men, as are the eight Spanish men suspected of having the disease.
Portuguese officials have confirmed five men tested positive and over a dozen more are thought to be infected.
Health chiefs in the UK say the pattern of transmission is ‘highly suggestive of spread in sexual networks’.
Until now monkeypox had only been detected in four countries outside of Africa — the UK, US, Israel and Singapore, all of whom had links to Nigeria and Ghana.
Infections are more common in central and western Africa, where they can result from direct contact with infected animals.
Monkeypox can kill up to one in 10 people it infects — but the strain spreading globally is milder and has a fatality rate of about one in 100.
That is roughly the same as the first strain of Covid that came out of Wuhan, however vaccines and natural immunity have since made the coronavirus much weaker.
Monkeypox’s similarity to smallpox means jabs and drugs against that virus are also effective.
What is monkeypox?
Monkeypox is a rare viral infection which people usually pick up in the tropical areas of west and central Africa.
It is usually spread through direct contact with animals such as squirrels, which are known to harbour the virus.
However, it can also be transmitted through very close contact with an infected person.
Monkeypox was first discovered when an outbreak of a pox-like disease occurred in monkeys kept for research in 1958.
The first human case was recorded in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the infection has been reported in a number of central and western African countries since then.
Only a handful of cases have been reported outside of Africa and they were con…