Mpox patient had 75 sexual partners in 21 days before developing symptoms, scientists discover

AN mpox patient had 75 sexual partners in three weeks before developing symptoms of the skin infection, a study shows.

A new study examining the spread of mpox in Ireland between 2022 and 2023 documented the number of sexual encounters people had before getting a fever and rash, highlighting one impressive outlier.

GettyThe UK saw a surge in mpox cases in May 2022[/caption]

Infections start with flu like symptoms and a rash can appear one to five days later

Though the average amount of sexual partners people had in the 21 days before their symptoms started was around two, one busy mpox patient certainly seems to have surpassed that number.

The person reported being intimate with an astounding 75 people leading up to their mpox infection.

Mpox is a viral infection that causes flu-like symptoms and pus-filled lesions.

Until a few years ago most cases of it were reported in central and west Africa, but the UK and other countries saw an influx of infections in May 2022.

Between May 3,700 cases of mpox have been identified in the UK since 7 May 2022. 

Most mpox cases are mild, causing fever, muscle aches, shivering and exhaustion, followed by a rash of fluid-filled blisters that often begins on the face.

The infections tend to spread through close physical contact – such as during sex, kissing or cuddling – as well as sharing towels and bedding or from the coughs and sneezes of an infected person.

But health officials have recently warned of a mutant mpox variant tearing through central Africa that can be passed on through everyday touch alone.

Dubbed the “most dangerous strain of mpox yet”, it’s left hundreds dead and prompted the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare a public health emergency.

The Irish study – published to the Irish Medical Journal – examined the spread of mpox cases between May 2022 and May 2023, when UK infections were at their highest.

It confirmed 229 infections during that 12 month period.

Most – 226 of them – were in men and the remaining three in women.

Where known, 98.6 per cent (206) identified as gay, bisexual and other men who had sex with men.

Only 20 – just over 10 per cent – of the Irish mpox patients were admitted to hospital and no deaths occurred.

Almost half of those affected were aged between 18 and 34, though ages of patients ranged from 16 to 68.

And the median amount of sexual partners in the 21 days before symptom onset was two.

“In Ireland, as in many countries, the mpox outbreak peaked in late summer 2022, followed by a rapid decline in cases,” study authors said.

A total of 3,7732 cases of mpox were identified in 2022 across the UK, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said.

Between 2023 and May 31 this year, 220 cases have been reported.

Though cases in the UK are nowhere near as high as they were two summers ago, health officials are sounding alarms in central African countries – with fears the outbreak could reach other parts of the world, including Europe.

The mpox symptoms that have nothing to do with spots

The most obvious mpox symptom is the hallmark spots.

According to the NHS, these lesions go through four stages, from flat spots to raised spots, to blisters to scabs.

But people are also likely to experience flu-like symptoms, which will begin between five and 21 days after infection.

The symptoms often get better by themselves over two to four weeks.

The NHS says these include:

Inflammation of the rectum (proctitis) – for example, pain or bleeding from your back passage
High temperature (fever)
Headache
Flu-like symptoms, including muscle and back aches, shivering and tiredness
Swollen glands that feel like new lumps (in the neck, armpits or groin)

If you have some of these symptoms and believe you could have monkeypox, you should stay at home, avoid close contact with others and get medical help by phone until you’re assessed.

There are some complications associated with mpox, such as bacterial infection from skin lesions, mpox affecting the brain (encephalitis), heart (myocarditis) or lungs (pneumonia). 

There are two types – known as clades – of mpox, clade 1 and clade 2. The latter was responsible for the global outbreak in 2022, while clade 1 can cause more severe illnesses and deaths.

Experts say the new mutant variant known as clade clade 1lb behaving “extremely differently” to clades 1 and 2.

The disease appears to be causing miscarriages among pregnant women, as well as “horrendous whole body rashes” and other lingering symptoms.

Around 8,600 mpox cases and 410 deaths have been reported in the Democratic Republic of the Congo alone so far this year, Cris Kacita, the doctor in charge of operations in the country’s mpox control programme, told Reuters.

In South Africa, three people have died, with at least 16 laboratory-confirmed cases, the country’s health ministry said.

“There is a critical need to address the recent surge in mpox cases,” Rosamund Lewis, the World Health Organization‘s (WHO) technical lead for mpox, said.

Professor Trudie Lang, the director of Global Health Network at Oxford University, said these significant differences from previous mpox strains are “incredibly worrying”.

She added: “There is definitely the opportunity for this to get on a plane,” so countries around the world – including those in Europe – could be at risk through travel.

“We need to be really vigilant now and try to move to contain it.”

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