THE window of opportunity to stop the spread of monkeypox is closing, experts have warned.
It comes as a vaccine drive to jab those most susceptible to the illnesses has been slowed due to shortages.
At present there are around 20 cases of the bug being picked up each day in the UK, down from 35 a week ago.
The latest data from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) states that there are 3,081 confirmed cases in the UK – with a further 114 highly probably infections.
In the US there are 14,115 cases, with California and New York having the most.
Now experts have said that as cases grow, the chance of containing the illness has reduced.
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Professor Eyal Leshem of Israel’s Sheba Medical Center said there may be a spill over from the current population at risk to others – including children, vulnerable groups and pets.
"We know from past outbreaks that if an outbreak is to be stopped you have a very short window of opportunity. At this point, we see this window of opportunity slowly closing," he told CNBC.
The bug is more severe in young children and the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) has warned of preliminary evidence that has suggested children below the age of eight could develop a more severe reaction to the virus.
Young children with eczema and other skin conditions, and children with immunocompromising conditions may also be at more risk for severe illness, according to the CDC.
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In rare cases, the virus can result in encephalitis (brain swelling), pneumonia, sepsis, vision loss and more, the CDC reported.
It is not clear why kids are more at risk – as are pregnant women and immunocompromised adults.
So far, children have been widely unaffected by the outbreak, with the majority of cases having been seen in men who have sex with men.
It's thought that at least eight children in the US and one under 15-year-old male in the UK have so far been struck by the illness.
The number of cases is very small compared to the larger epidemic, in which a few thousand people have been reported.
In order to deal with this, the UK had initially ordered 50,000 jabs – which is enough to vaccinate 25,000 people.
Now a total of 150,000 have been ordered which is the maximum available.
Dame Jenny Harries, chief executive at the UKHSA warned that vaccines in the UK could run out in some areas before more doses arrive in a weeks' time.
She said: "There may be a short period, probably of three or four weeks, where vaccines may run out in some areas.
"And in those cases we are ensuring that the individuals who have come forward are checked and will be invited again, so they just need to ensure that their names are available.
"And as soon as the vaccine’s in we will get it into people’s arms.”
The outbreak has mainly been concentrated in men who have sex with men – so people in that community had previously been asked to come forward for the jab.
'NOT A SILVER BULLET'
Health chiefs have warned this group to be extra vigilant to the symptoms of monkeypox, especially if they plan to have sex.
Despite the jab drive, experts have said that it won't be a 'silver bullet' in stopping the spread.
Dr Rosamund Lewis, who is the World Health Organization's (WHO) lead on monkeypox said those who think they are at risk should 'reduce their number of sexual partner and avoid group or casual sex'.
She added that even if you have had a vaccine, then you should wait around two weeks before having sex again – which is typically time it takes for the body to form an immune response.
The Aids Healthcare Foundation (AHF) in the US yesterday said that monkeypox should be now treated as a sexually transmitted illness (STI).
Experts at the group said that classing the bug as an STI more accurately reflects transmission of the new clade or strain of the virus.
"Following the initial and abysmal global, federal, state and local responses to monkeypox, we simply have NO time to waste, we must consider and respond to monkeypox as an STI or STD if we are ever going to get a handle on this virus,” said AHF President Michael Weinstein.
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"Thinking of and treating monkeypox as an STD is the best way forward for our collective public health response," he added.
Despite cases still being identified in the UK, Dame Jenny Harries, chief executive at the UKHSA said the outbreak could be plateuing.
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