Monkeypox cases in the UK continue to rise ahead of the London Pride parade later today, now reaching 1,235 confirmed cases.
Officials have now released a warning urging anyone who thinks they might have monkeypox to stay away from the parade to avoid further spread.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has confirmed the number of cases jumped by a further 159 by June 30, up from 1,076 on June 28.
Wendi Shepherd, monkeypox incident director at UKHSA, said: ‘The monkeypox outbreak continues to grow.
Pride events began yesterday, July 1, and will culminate in a hue parade through central London later today
Examples of the monkeypox rash, which can appear anywhere on the body and often spreads to the genital area
‘Our investigations and information from confirmed cases continue to show that the overwhelming majority of cases are in gay, bisexual or other men who have sex with men.
‘This weekend, let’s enjoy Pride safely – before you go to any events or parties, check yourself for blister-like spots and rashes.
‘Please don’t attend if you have monkeypox symptoms or feel unwell. If you have a rash or blisters, stay at home, phone a sexual health clinic, and get tested.
‘Please be vigilant for any monkeypox symptoms in the coming weeks – especially if you are having sex with someone new.
‘To assist with our contact tracing, we encourage everyone to ensure they exchange contact details with sexual partners, to help us limit further transmission where cases occur.’
Meanwhile top public-health doctor Professor Kevin Fenton has also urged anyone with suspected symptoms to stay at home and contact the NHS for advice.
It was time for clear messages, Prof Fenton told BBC News.
“If you think you may have monkeypox – blisters, fevers, swollen glands – please do not go out over the weekend,” he said.
“Stay at home and contact NHS 111 or your local sexual health service for advice.”
Professor Fenton expects a further rise in cases in coming weeks as it can take time for symptoms to appear.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan echoed calls for anyone with possible symptoms to stay at home. But he added it was essential the parade goes ahead as planned after the recent shooting at Oslo’s pride event in June.
The UKHSA says it has been advising and working with organisers of mass events throughout the outbreak, which has emerged in the last couple of months.
Gay and bisexual men have been ‘disproportionately affected’ health officials have said.
Monkeypox is spreading across the world as well as in the UK – with African countries appealing for help as the outbreak across the west is reflected in a rise in cases for them too
Although there is no clear evidence as to why the majority of cases have been identified in members of the LGBT+ community, it is thought this may be to do with the fact gay and bisexual men tend to have more awareness of, and get checked more regularly for, sexually transmitted diseases.
This means they are more likely to notice changes such as rashes and blisters.
Until this year monkeypox had not seen a widespread global outbreak, instead being limited mainly to parts of Africa.
But anyone can get monkeypox if they have had close contact with an infected person.
2022 monkeypox outbreak: A UK timeline
MAY 7, 2022: A person was diagnosed with Monkeypox in England after recently travelling to Nigeria. The person received care at the expert infectious disease unit at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust in London.
MAY 14, 2022: Two more cases were confirmed in London. The infected pair lived in the same household but had not been in contact with the case announced one week earlier.
One of these individuals received care at the expert infectious disease unit at St Mary’s Hospital in London. The other isolated at home and did not need hospital treatment.
MAY 16, 2022: Four more cases were announced, bringing the UK total to seven. Three of these cases are in London, while one of their contacts is infected in the north east of England.
The spate of cases was described as ‘unusual’ and ‘surprising’ as experts warn gay and bisexual men to look out for new rashes.
MAY 19, 2022: Two more cases were revealed, with no travel links or connections to other cases. The cases were based in the South East and London. Fears began to grow that infections are going undetected.
MAY 20, 2022: Eleven more cases are announced, meaning Britain’s monkeypox outbreak have doubled to 20. Minsters discuss the possibility of a public health campaign to warn gay men the disease may be more prevalent for them
MAY 23, 2022: Scotland logs its first ever monkeypox case and 36 more infection announced in England. It brings the UK total to 57.
MAY 24, 2022: England logs another 14 cases, bringing the UK total to 71.
MAY 25, 2022: Another seven infections are spotted in England, meaning 78 cases have been detected in the UK.
MAY 26, 2022: Wales and Northern Ireland detect their first monkeypox case in the recent outbreak, while Scotland spots two more cases and England logs eight, bringing UK total to 90.
MAY 27, 2022: England detects 16 more cases, meaning 106 people in Britain have confirmed infections.
MAY 29, 2022: World Health Organization (WHO) says risk of monkeypox is ‘moderate’, citing concerns about virus infecting children and immunosuppressed people if it becomes more widespread.
MAY 30, 2022: The UK detects another 71 monkeypox cases, bringing the UK total to 179. Cases jumped 70 per cent in just three days.
MAY 31, 2022: Eleven infections are spotted across the UK, bringing the infection toll to 190.
JUNE 1, 2022: Another five cases are spotted in England and one is detected in Scotland, meaning the UK has now logged 196.
JUNE 2, 2022: The UK spots another 11 cases in England, bringing the UK total to 207.
JUNE 3, 2022: A further 18 cases are logged – 15 in England and three in Scotland, bringing Britain’s monkeypox infection toll to 225.
JUNE 6, 2022: Seventy-three cases are spotted in England, 2 in Scotland and 2 in Wales, bringing the UK total to 302.
JUNE 8, 2022: Some 18 people in England and one in Scotland test positive, meaning 321 people have had infections confirmed.
JUNE 10, 2022: Forty-three more cases are spotted in England and one in each in Scotland and Wales. The UK has now confirmed 366 infections.
JUNE 13, 2022: Another 103 cases are spotted in England, bringing UK total to 470.
JUNE 15, 2022: Another 52 cases are identified in England, and one each in Wales and Scotland, bringing the total infections to 524.
JUNE 15, 2022: A further 50 cases are identified in the UK, bringing the total infections to 574.
JUNE 21, 2022: The UKHSA changes how often infection rates are reported.
The current UK total is 793 confirmed cases, with 766 of those in England
JUNE 24, 2022: Another 107 cases are reported, bringing the total to 873.
JUNE 28, 2022: The UKHSA announced another 166 monkeypox cases, taking the total over 1,000 to 1,076.
JULY 1, 2022: The day before the London Pride parade it is announced there are 1,235 confirmed monkeypox cases in the UK.
Attendees are advised to check themselves for any unusual rashes or symptoms before travelling to Pride.
Monkeypox is not normally a sexually-transmitted infection, but it can be passed on by direct contact during sex.
It can also be spread through touching clothing, bedding or towels used by someone with the monkeypox rash.
According to the UKHSA, monkeypox does not usually spread easily between people and the overall risk to the UK population remains low.
The disease is usually mild but can cause severe illness in some cases.
Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion.
A rash can develop, often beginning on the face, which then spreads to other parts of the body including the genitals.
The rash then tends to blister and scab over before eventually drying and falling off.
Of the 1,235 cases, the UKHSA has confirmed that 77 per cent of those affected who have a registered address are residents of London.
Of the 1,185 cases where gender data is available, 1,180 cases appeared in men with just five in women.
The median age of infection in the UK so far is 37.
London alone now has had 692 confirmed cases, with a further 287 cases where the location has not yet been determined.
There are fears that the London Pride parade, which takes place today, could lead to further spread due to the close proximity of people.
Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to descend on the capital to celebrate.
The event will mark the 50th anniversary of the first ever Pride parade in the UK, which saw just a couple of thousand attendees.
Pride in London’s 2022 parade will start at Hyde Park Corner at midday, before making its way through Piccadilly and Piccadilly Circus and then turning south on Haymarket.
From there it will travel towards Trafalgar Square before finishing in Whitehall at around 6pm.
The event is set to see performances from huge stars, and will be headlined by Ava Max.
The Trafalgar Square Stage will feature singer Emeli Sandé, Eurovision-winning superstar Netta, pop and soul icon Samantha Mumba, and Hollywood actress and Long Hot Summer singer Kat Graham.
Other performers across the stages today include Tony nominee Justin Vivian Bond, stars of Pride’s recent Proud & Loud concert at the Royal Albert Hall Cat Burns and Ariōn, along with Drag Race Superstars The Vivienne, Lawrence Chaney, Tia Kofi and Victoria Scone.
Cast members from hit musicals Kinky Boots and Romeo & Juliet will also make an appearance.
But gay rights activist and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who helped to organise the first ever Pride event in 1972, yesterday said the parade had become ‘too corporate and commercial.’
Speaking about the main event, Mr Tatchell said: ‘A lot of us are very concerned that the main official Pride event has become too corporate and commercial.
‘It often looks like a huge PR, marketing and branding exercise by big companies.
‘The human rights dimension has been lost. The original Pride was both a celebration and a protest.
‘That’s the way it should be this year as well.
‘We need to remember that there are still issues to fight for, particularly globally where 69 countries continue to criminalise same sex relations – 12 Muslim majority countries still have the death penalty.’
At least 61 countries have reported outbreaks of monkeypox cases. In Europe, the UK leads with the most confirmed infections, followed by Germany, Spain, Portugal and France.
The UKHSA advises Britons to contact their sexual health clinic if they have a rash with blisters and have been in close contact with a suspected or confirmed monkeypox case or have been in West or Central Africa in the last three weeks.
As part of efforts to thwart the ever-growing outbreak, both confirmed cases and close contacts are offered the Imvanex jab, which is 85 per cent effective against the virus.
The strategy, known as ring vaccination, has been used in the past and is proven to work.
But despite these efforts, there are fears that the monkeypox outbreak, combined with a resurgence of coronavirus and an expected early wave of flu, could cause massively increase pressures on the NHS.
MailOnline reported yesterday that health officials have said they are expecting an ‘early influenza wave’ in the UK because there has not been a ‘proper’ flu season since the start of the Covid pandemic.
Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical advisor at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), said she is watching Australia – currently in its winter season – ‘very carefully’ after a strain of influenza ‘started early and spread fast across all age groups’.
She said the country is ‘having its worst flu season in five years’, which could replicate in the UK as early as September.
Meanwhile, Dr Hopkins added that we will see at least one more Covid wave later this year partnered with an ‘ongoing transmission of monkeypox’.
There are also mounting fears that the NHS will be struck down at the same time by Covid, with colder weather and darker evenings leading to increased social contact indoors — where viruses find it easier to spread.
This year’s march will mark the 50th anniversary of Lonodn’s first ever Pride parade in 1972, and will be led by veterans of that event and the Gay Liberation Front
There is expected to be a focus on the rights of LGBT+ people around the world, as well as the government’s refusal to expand the conversion therapy ban to transgender people
Flu is a seasonal menace on the NHS, with outbreaks more likely between September and March because colder weather forces more people indoors where the virus — like Covid — finds it easier to spread.
But influenza virtually disappeared last winter amid lockdowns aiming to control the spread of Covid.
Speaking on Thursday in a webinar hosted by the Royal Society of Medicine, Dr Hopkins said: ‘We are planning for an influenza wave. I don’t know if people re following Australia, but we are watching very, very carefully.
‘It started earlier and it rose very, very fast in all age groups so we are expecting that we will see an early influenza wave.
‘While we normally don’t see influenza really kick off until the end of November to December, that might happen as early as late September-October – that’s what we’re planning for.’
She added: ‘We will see at least one Covid wave in the autumn-winter, once we have got through the current wave. And, for the next six months at least, we will have ongoing community transmission of monkeypox.’
Coronavirus infections have just jumped by 30 per cent, with around 2.3 million people infected last week.