The World Health Organization (WHO) has urged men who have sex with men to have fewer sexual partners to stop the spread of monkeypox.
The health body has forecast there will be just over 27,000 cases of the virus in 88 countries by next Tuesday, up from 17,800 cases in nearly 70 countries at the last count.
A total of five deaths from the virus have been reported worldwide and 10% of cases have been hospitalized, with the WHO declaring the outbreak a global emergency.
The majority of infections observed so far have been in men who have sex with men.
Watch: Monkeypox: WHO declares global health emergency over ‘extraordinary’ outbreak
WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “This is an epidemic that can be stopped if countries, communities and individuals become informed, take the risks seriously and take measures needed to stop transmission and protect vulnerable groups.
“The best way to do this is to reduce the risk of exposure. That means making safe choices for yourself and others.
“For men who have sex with men, this includes, for now, reducing your number of sex partners, reconsidering sex with new partners, and exchanging contact information with any new partners to allow for a follow-up if necessary.
But he stressed there must be no stigma or discrimination against any group as it could be as “dangerous as any virus”.
Read more: Monkeypox is really an emergency. The WHO was right to give the highest alert
Sex is thought to put people at higher risk of contracting the disease because, although it is not known to be sexually transmitted, the close physical contact involved means exposure is more likely.
The most likely route of transmission for monkeypox is through close physical contact, contact with clothing, bedding, or towels used by someone with the monkeypox rash, or contact with blisters or scabs on the skin monkeypox.
There is a lower risk of spread through coughing and sneezing, and since prolonged face-to-face contact would be required, this is not one of the main routes of transmission of monkeypox virus.
Read more: ‘I literally screamed in pain’: My two weeks of monkeypox hell
Sexual health organizations recently estimated that this could represent around 125,000 people in the UK.
Jimmy Whitworth, a professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said he expected cases not to level off for at least the next four to six months, or until the most at risk of infection have been vaccinated or infected.
In the UK, men who have sex with men are given priority for the vaccine.
Currently, more than 18 clinics are vaccinating people in London, which has recorded the highest cases.
On Tuesday, Ireland announced that the monkeypox vaccine would be prioritized for men who have sex with men and other people at high risk of unprotected exposure.
It follows recommendations made last week by the National Immunization Advisory Committee (NIAC) to the Acting Chief Medical Officer (CMO) who endorsed them.