THERE have been a “handful” of monkeypox cases in Dorset with the spread of infections being monitored and managed by a national government agency.

Sam Crowe, director of public health for BCP and Dorset Councils, was asked about the number of infections in the county at a recent BCP Council health and adult social care overview and scrutiny committee meeting.

Responding to a question from Cllr Susan Phillips at the meeting on July 25, Mr Crowe said: “We have had a handful of cases of monkeypox but it is predominantly affecting networks that have stronger links with London and other areas of the south east.

“It is an incident that is being managed by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), which is responsible for health protection response.

“The way that we stepped up and responded to Covid-19 was quite different. As a local authority public health team we sort of stepped over the line because of the national emergency.

“With something like monkeypox we have now stepped back from our local response and UKHSA are very much the lead agency on this.”

Data from the UKHSA said there had been 2,672 confirmed monkeypox cases in the UK as of August 1, with 54 of these in the south west.

Mr Crowe added: “We have been working quite closely to make sure that our sexual health service locally is informed and up to date and able to be working with their networks to make sure that people are as informed as possible of early signs and symptoms of monkeypox and they are also starting to think about vaccinating the cohorts that are most at risk.

“But it is not predominantly a local public health team response issue.”

Monkeypox has been endemic to parts of Africa for decades. Its leap to Europe and North America was linked by experts to two raves in Belgium and Spain.

It spreads mainly through skin-to-skin contact but it can also be transmitted through bed sheets used by someone with monkeypox.

Symptoms include fever, body aches, chills, fatigue and hives. The illness has been relatively mild in many men but people can be contagious for weeks, and the lesions can be extremely painful.

The NHS announced late last month that it was stepping up its vaccination programme against monkeypox in London as more supplies of a jab became available.

Vaccination experts have recommended that gay and bisexual men at higher risk of exposure to monkeypox be offered the smallpox vaccine Imvanex.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “Thousands of monkeypox vaccines have already been administered and the NHS is working to rapidly invite those at greatest risk.

“We have procured over 150,000 vaccines, and we’re working with partners – including the NHS and UK Health Security Agency – to share targeted, non-stigmatising communications with the LGBTQ+ community.

“We are enabling local authorities to invest in essential frontline sexual health services by providing more than £3.4 billion through the Public Health Grant.”