The monkeypox outbreak spreading across the UK and around the globe has been linked to a suspected superspreader event at a sauna in the Spanish capital of Madrid.
Twenty cases of the disease endemic to west Africa have been identified in the UK, with further instances in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Holland, Portugal, Spain and Sweden. as well as in the US, Canada and Australia.
In the Spanish capital, most of the country’s 30 cases have been traced back to a sauna there, according to officials.
Enrique Ruiz Escudero, the region’s health chief, told reporters that health officials reported a “notable proportion” of the UK and European cases are in gay and bisexual men.
Portugal's first 14 cases were in gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men. The country confirmed a further nine cases on Friday.
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In Belgium, three cases have also been linked to a fetish festival in Antwerp, according to The Daily Telegraph.
“There’s reason to assume that the virus has been brought in by visitors from abroad to the festival after recent cases in other countries,” the festival said on its website.
Darklands is a ticketed event that describes itself as a place where “various tribes in the gay fetish community (leather, rubber, army, skinhead, puppies...) come together to create a unique spectacle of fetish brotherhood”.
The UK confirmed 11 new cases of monkeypox on Friday, bringing the total to 20.
Globally, 127 cases have been reported in 11 countries, according to John Brownstein, professor of medicine at the Harvard Medical School in America.
German scientists say the outbreak is the largest ever seen in Europe of the viral condition, which can cause symptoms such as fever, headache, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes and chills.
It is rarely found outside of Africa which is why health leaders are raising concerns. Fabian Leendertz, from the Robert Koch Institute, described the current outbreak as an epidemic.