Health authorities in Europe, the United States and the United Kingdom are investigating cases of monkeypox, reported BBC on Thursday.

Monkeypox is a rare infection that is mainly spread by wild animals in parts of west or central Africa, according to the UK’s National Health Service. The health body says that it is uncommon for the infection to spread through human contact but can happen when a person is touching monkeypox skin blisters or using clothing, bedding or towels of those suffering from the rash.

The disease usually causes a mild illness and can result in symptoms such as high temperature, headache, backache and rashes that can be confused with chickenpox.

Even though the spread of the infection is uncommon, confirmed cases have been been reported in Italy, Sweden, US, UK, Spain and Portugal. Canada has reported 13 suspected cases of the infection.

The first monkeypox case in the UK was reported on May 7. The patient had returned from Nigeria, the UK Health Security Agency said. Now, it has spread to nine other citizens.

The World Health Organization had said that the cases seem to have been “locally acquired”.

The United States reported its first case of monkeypox this year on Wednesday, reported The Guardian. The patient, a resident of Massachusetts, had travelled to Canada.

US health officials said they have contacted British and Canadian authorities as part of the investigation into the disease. But “at this point in time, we don’t have any information that links the Massachusetts case to cases in the UK,” said Jennifer McQuiston, an employee of US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

She said that although there was only one patient of the disease in the country, the US health agency was “preparing for the possibility of more cases”.

In Europe, one confirmed case each was found in Sweden and Italy. Five confirmed cases were reported in Portugal and seven in Spain.

Anne Rimoin, an epidemiology professor at University of California, Los Angeles, said that this surge in monkeypox cases outside Africa could suggest that it was spreading via new means or the virus has changed, reported Reuters.

She, however, clarified that her assessment needs to determined.

“This isn’t going to cause a nationwide epidemic like Covid did,” Jimmy Whitworth, professor of international public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told the news agency. “But it’s a serious outbreak of a serious disease – and we should take it seriously.”

Meanwhile, Britain has started offering smallpox vaccine to some healthcare workers and those who may have been exposed to the infection.

Monkeypox does not have a specific vaccine, but a jab meant for smallpox offers some protection, a UK Health Security Agency spokesperson said.

World Health Organization data showed that the smallpox vaccines are up to 85% effective against monkeypox.