SPAIN’S health services are investigating 23 potential cases of the rare monkeypox infection after an initial seven cases were confirmed in Madrid.

A statement by Madrid Health Authorities said of the seven confirmed, all were in men and the virus had likely been transmitted through sexual activity.

“In general, its transmission is via respiratory drops but the characteristics of the 22 suspected infections point to it being passed on through bodily fluids during sex relations,” the statement said, without giving further details.

Spain’s El Pais newspaper quoted Madrid’s regional head of public health Elena Andradas, as saying: “22 of the 23 suspected cases have reported having had sex with other men in recent weeks”.

In neighbouring Portugal 20 suspected cases have been identified, while in the UK seven cases have been confirmed so far.

European health authorities are monitoring any outbreak of the disease.

The newspaper El Pais quoted the head of public health in the Madrid region, Elena Andradas, as saying, “22 of the 23 suspected cases have reported having had sex with other men in recent weeks”. 

Monkeypox symptoms usually begin with a mix of fever, headaches, muscle aches, backache, chills, exhaustion, and swollen lymph nodes.

This latter symptom is typically what helps doctors distinguish monkeypox from chickenpox or smallpox, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), which said the virus typically causes death in one in ten cases.

The key feature of monkeypox is a rash of nasty lesions which tend to develop between one to three days after the onset of fever, often starting on the face before spreading across the body.

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