Monkeypox linked to penis swelling and anal pain as Europe suffers first death

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Some men infected with monkeypox have reported pain in their rectum as well as swelling of the penis, a new study has revealed as the disease claimed its first victim in Europe.

Today, July 29, the Spanish Health Ministry said a person had died, in what is understood to be Europe's first known death and only the second outside of Africa in the current outbreak.

The five previous reported deaths were all in African nations and the disease itself is endemic to the west of the continent.

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Now, it is being reported that symptoms that aren’t generally associated with the viral infection are being found in some men.

Julia Bilinska at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust in London characterised the symptoms of 197 people, all male, who tested positive for monkeypox between May and July, finding that 71 reported rectal pain and 31 reported penile swelling.

Twenty participants in the study were hospitalised, with eight admissions for anal or rectal pain and five for penile swelling.

Nine of the men showed another atypical monkeypox symptom, swollen tonsils.

Also, in 22 of the participants, a single skin lesion was found, despite monkeypox being commonly associated with widespread scabbing.

The NHS, CDC and WHO list of official monkeypox syptoms has changed in the past, most recently – by the NHS – to include single lesion or lesions on the genitals, anus and surrounding area.

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Proctitis, which is anal or rectal pain or bleeding, was also added by the NHS, also on July 25.

But, as yet, the newest syptoms described by Bilinska haven't been added. She said although it takes time for new symptoms to be added to official lists people should still be vigilant about them.

Describing where the syptoms may have arisen from, she added: "It may suggest a change in the natural disease course, or it may be due to the mode of transmission,” she says. “It’s a question that deserves a lot more research.”

The researcher also said that it may have been a combination effect from men who were tested having other diseases, 70 were HIV positive and 56 had a sexually transmitted infection.

“It’s very possible that having two infections at the same time makes the symptoms worse,” said Bilinska.

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