To date, 106 monkeypox cases have been reported in the UK (Picture: Reuters)

The NHS is being swamped by calls from people with a rash who are concerned they may have monkeypox, a health official has said.

Since cases of the disease were first reported in the UK earlier this month, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has advised people who may have symptoms such as a new rash to either phone NHS 111 or contact their nearest sexual health clinic. 

But Mateo Prochazka, head of the UKHSA team investigating the outbreak, is urging people to use local sexual health services rather than 111 to take the pressure of the helpline which also handles other health queries.

‘Sexual health clinics are not just for gay and bisexual men,’ Mateo said during a webinar hosted by Prepster, a volunteer group of London-based HIV prevention activists helping raise awareness of monkeypox.

‘Anyone can be seen in a sexual health clinic, regardless of gender, sexual orientation or identity. Everyone is welcome.

‘There are other potential routes of trying to get yourself into the system, maybe calling NHS 111, but this resource has been really overloaded with everyone calling who had a rash,’ he told the Telegraph.

It comes as 16 more cases of monkeypox have been identified in England, bringing the total number identified since May 7 up to 101 in England and 106 in the UK.

There have been three confirmed cases in Scotland, one in Wales and one in Northern Ireland.

Despite the rise in cases, the UKHSA said the risk to the UK population ‘remains low’ as the virus does not spread easily.

NHS 111 has been swamped with calls from people concerned they may have monkeypox (Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

The ‘majority of cases’ identified in the UK so far have been among men who are gay, bisexual or who have sex with men.

While the risk of catching the virus is not limited to this group, anyone who has close contact with someone who is infectious is at risk, men who have sex with other men are being urged to be particularly aware of symptoms.

Monkeypox symptoms often start with a fever, headache, muscle aches and swollen lymph nodes and exhaustion.

The incubation period of the virus is usually from 6 to 13 days but can range from 5 to 21 days.

Monkeypox sufferers often develop a rash (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Sufferers normally develop a rash after initial symptoms start, it can be anywhere on the body but is normally on the face or genitals.

A person is infectious when symptomatic and at least until their scabs fall off, and potentially longer. 

Dr Susan Hopkins, UKHSA chief medical adviser, said: ‘We are continuing to promptly identify further monkeypox cases in England through our extensive surveillance and contact tracing networks, our vigilant NHS services, and thanks to people coming forward with symptoms.

‘We are asking people to look out for new spots, ulcers or blisters on any part of their body.

‘If anyone suspects they might have these, particularly if they have recently had a new sexual partner, they should limit their contact with others and contact NHS 111 or their local sexual health service as soon as possible, though please phone ahead before attending in person.’

Anyone who is worried they have developed monkeypox symptoms such as a new rash is being urged to contact their nearest sexual health clinic (Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

UKHSA teams have been tracing contacts of people with a confirmed case and are advising those at highest risk to isolate at home for up to 21 days.

A smallpox vaccine is being offered to close contacts to reduce their risk of symptoms and severe illness.

The UKHSA is also advising infected people to avoid contact with their pets for 21 days, particularly rodents such as gerbils and hamsters which are susceptible to the disease.

UKHSA guidance recommends pet rodents should be removed from the household of a monkeypox patient for that time period and tested for the virus, due to concerns over animal-to-animal or rodent-to-human transmission.

Almost 200 cases have been reported in over 20 countries not usually known to have outbreaks of the monkeypox, according to the World Health Organisation.

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