Fifteen monkeypox cases have been identified in Hertfordshire.

The county council in Hertfordshire has confirmed the figure following the World Health Organisation's decision to declare a global health emergency over the virus outbreak on Saturday, July 23.

Hertfordshire County Council and the government's Health Security Agency (UKHSA) have said the virus is predominantly circulating among gay and bisexual men.

The NHS is offering a smallpox vaccine for people who are at risk of being exposed to monkeypox, which at this stage could include some healthcare workers, some men who have sex with men, and people who know they have been in close contact with the virus.

Jim McManus, executive director of public health for Hertfordshire County Council said on Wednesday, July 27: "At the time of writing we have fifteen confirmed cases of monkeypox in Hertfordshire.

"It is spread through sustained close physical contact.

"We will not identify any district or town in which people were diagnosed, in line with UKHSA recommendations for such small numbers.

"The majority of cases are in gay and bisexual men.

"Gay and bisexual men, who are at risk, are coming forward for assessment when they notice symptoms.

"We would urge them to continue to do this as their proactive responses are helping identify cases early and slow transmission.

"We are working with UKHSA to ensure people with the virus and their close contacts are supported and can access treatment.

"We will be ready to invite eligible gay and bisexual men for vaccination when the vaccines are made available by NHS England."

According to the NHS, monkeypox can be passed between individuals via close physical or intimate contact.

This includes kissing, skin-to-skin contact, or sharing things like clothing, bedding and towels.

Symptoms of the infection include fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion.

A rash can also develop, usually beginning on the face before spreading to other areas of the body.

A statement from the UKHSA reads: "Monkeypox is usually a mild illness, which can be spread by very close contact and most people recover within a few weeks.

"The virus does not usually spread easily between people and the risk to the UK population remains low."

An NHS statement reads: "If you're at risk of exposure, your local NHS services will contact you and offer you a vaccine.

"You can check the website of your local sexual health service for more information."

It adds: "Monkeypox is caused by a similar virus to smallpox.

"The smallpox (MVA) vaccine should give a good level of protection against monkeypox.

"The NHS is offering smallpox (MVA) vaccination to people who are most likely to be exposed to monkeypox."

The NHS website includes a tool for finding nearby sexual health clinics and centres, some of which may be able to offer the smallpox vaccine: