LISBON (Reuters) - Portuguese authorities said on Wednesday they had identified five cases of rare monkeypox infection and Spain's health services are testing eight potential cases after Britain put Europe on alert for the virus.
The five Portuguese patients, out of 20 suspected cases, are all stable. They are all men and they all live in the region of Lisbon and the Tagus Valley, the Portuguese health authorities said.
European Health authorities are monitoring any outbreak of the disease since Britain has reported its first case of monkeypox on May 7 and found six more in the country since then.
None of the eight suspected cases in Spain has been confirmed yet, the Spanish Health Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.
Monkeypox is a rare viral infection similar to human smallpox, though milder, first recorded in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the 1970s. The number of cases in West Africa has increased in the last decade.
Symptoms include fever, headaches and skin rashes starting on the face and spreading to the rest of the body.
It is not particularly infectious between people, Spanish health authorities said, and most people infected recover within a few weeks, though severe cases have been reported.
Four of the cases detected in Britain self-identified as gay, bi-sexual or other men who have sex with men, the UK Health Security Agency said, adding evidence suggested there may be a transmission in the community.
The agency in Britain urged men who are gay and bisexual to be aware of any unusual rashes or lesions and to contact a sexual health service without delay.
The Spanish Health Ministry and Portugal's DGS health authority Spanish did not release any information on the sexual orientation of the monkeypox patients or suspected patients.
The two countries sent out alerts to health professionals in order to identify more possible cases.
(Reporting by Patricia Rua in Lisbon and Christina Thykjaer in Madrid; Editing by Inti Landauro and Alison Williams)