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Monkeypox

You may have heard about monkeypox in the news recently. But what is it, what are the symptoms and how can you access help and information?

Monkeypox is a rare illness caused by the monkeypox virus and one of the symptoms is a rash that is sometimes confused with chickenpox. It is usually associated with travel to Central or West Africa but cases have been occurring in England with no travel links.

Monkeypox can be spread when someone comes into close contact with an infected person. The virus can enter the body through broken skin, the respiratory tract or through the eyes, nose or mouth.

If you get infected with monkeypox, it usually takes between five and 21 days for the first symptoms to appear. Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion.

A rash can develop, often beginning on the face, then spreading to other parts of the body. The rash changes and goes through different stages - a bit like chicken pox - before finally forming a scab, which later falls off. 

The virus can spread if there is close contact between people through:

  • touching clothing, bedding or towels used by someone with the monkeypox rash
  • touching monkeypox skin blisters or scabs
  • the coughs or sneezes of a person with the monkeypox rash

Anyone with concerns that they could be infected should contact their GP, or call 111 or your local sexual health clinic. Do not attend a clinic, hospital or your GP in person, unless they arrange an appointment.

Members of the public seeking information and advice about monkeypox can also call the monkeypox helpline on  0333 2423 672, Monday to Friday, 8am - 6pm, and Saturday to Sunday, 9am - 1pm.

UKHSA is investigating the recent cases in England. A notable proportion of early cases detected have been in gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men, and so UKHSA is urging this community in particular to be alert to any unusual rashes or lesions and to contact a sexual health service without delay.

UKHSA will post regular updates on gov.uk.

 

FAQs

Answer:

Monkeypox is a rare infectious disease, but there are a number of cases in the UK. That number is rising. 

Monkeypox can be caught from infected wild animals in parts of west and central Africa. It's thought to be spread by rodents, such as rats, mice and squirrels. 

You can catch monkeypox from an infected animal if you're bitten or you touch its blood, body fluids, spots, blisters or scabs.

It may also be possible to catch monkeypox by eating meat from an infected animal that has not been cooked thoroughly, or by touching other products from infected animals (such as animal skin or fur).

Monkeypox can spread if there is close contact between people. through:

  • touching clothing, bedding or towels used by someone with the monkeypox rash
  • touching monkeypox skin lesions or scabs, particularly if your own skin has sores or cuts
  • the coughs or sneezes of a person with the monkeypox rash
Answer:

If you get infected with monkeypox, it usually takes between 5 and 21 days for the first symptoms to appear.

The first symptoms of monkeypox include:

  • a high temperature
  • a headache
  • muscle aches
  • backache
  • swollen glands
  • shivering (chills)
  • exhaustion

A rash usually appears 1 to 5 days after the first symptoms. The rash often begins on the face, then spreads to other parts of the body. 

The rash is sometimes confused with chickenpox. It starts as raised spots, which turn into small blisters filled with fluid. These blisters eventually form scabs which later fall off.

The symptoms usually clear up in 2 to 4 weeks.

Answer:

The incubation period is the duration/time between contact with the infected person and the time that the first symptoms appear. The incubation period for monkeypox is between 5 and 21 days.

Answer:
Monkeypox can spread if there is close contact between people

Spread of monkeypox may occur when a person comes into contact with an animal, human, or materials contaminated with the virus. The virus enters the body through broken skin (even if not visible), respiratory tract, or the mucous membranes (eyes, nose, or mouth). 

Person-to-person spread is very uncommon, but may occur through:

  • contact with clothing or linens (such as bedding or towels) used by an infected person
  • direct contact with monkeypox skin lesions or scabs
  • coughing or sneezing of an individual with a monkeypox rash
Answer:

Monkeypox has not previously been described as a sexually transmitted infection, though it can be passed on by direct contact during sex. It can also be passed on through other close contact with a person who has monkeypox or contact with clothing or linens used by a person who has monkeypox.

We are learning more from the latest cases, and while it is not thought monkeypox can be sexually transmitted, close contact during sexual activity could lead to transmission. This could include if your face, lips, hands or fingers (or other skin to skin contact during sex) comes into contact with monkeypox rash or lesions from having sex on their bedding, or from respiratory fluids exchanged during kissing, oral sex or sneezing. 

Answer:
Treatment for monkeypox is mainly supportive, but newer antivirals may be used.  The illness is usually mild and most of those infected will recover within a few weeks without treatment. High quality medical and nursing supportive care will be provided to individuals to manage symptoms.
Answer:
The disease caused by monkeypox is usually mild and most of those infected will recover within a few weeks without treatment. However, severe illness can occur in some individuals and those with underlying conditions such as severe immunosuppression.

 

Answer:
There isn’t a specific vaccine for monkeypox, but vaccinia (smallpox) vaccine does offer some protection. Some individuals with higher level of exposures are being offered this smallpox vaccine.
Answer:
This is a rare and unusual situation. UKHSA is rapidly investigating the source of these infections because the evidence suggests that there may be transmission of the monkeypox virus in the community, spread by close contact. Monkeypox remains very rare in the UK and the risk to the general public remains low. UKHSA and the NHS have well established and robust infection control procedures for dealing with cases of imported infectious disease and these will be strictly followed.
Answer:
Monkeypox remains very rare in the UK. In the majority of previous cases, there were links to countries where the disease is more common. There are currently no known links to recent travel for these recent cases and so UKHSA is rapidly investigating the source of these infections. The evidence suggests that there may be transmission of the monkeypox virus in the community, spread by close contact.  Detailed contact tracing is ongoing for follow-up of individuals who have come into contact with these cases.
Answer:

Do not attend a clinic, hospital or your GP in person, unless they arrange an appointment.

Contact your GP, call 111 or your local sexual health clinic if:

  • You have a new unexplained rash or lesion on your body, especially the face or genitals.
  • You have been in contact with someone who has monkeypox in the last three weeks.

Members of the public seeking information and advice about monkeypox can also call the monkeypox helpline on  0333 2423 672, Monday to Friday, 8am - 6pm, and Saturday to Sunday, 9am - 1pm.

Answer:
Previous asymptomatic infection has been in those with low-level exposure to infected animals in Africa. Person to person transmission of monkeypox is rare and there is no animal reservoir of infection in the UK for this to occur.
Answer:

The risk of monkeypox is very low to the UK public. Please speak to your local healthcare provider if you have concerns, or NHS 111 if you need urgent advice.

Members of the public seeking information and advice about monkeypox can also call the monkeypox helpline on  0333 2423 672, Monday to Friday, 8am - 6pm, and Saturday to Sunday, 9am - 1pm.

Answer:

The maximum isolation period for the highest category of contact is 21 days from the point they interacted with the infected individual. However, isolation advice is given on a case-by-case basis depending on the specific exposure circumstances of that individual so will differ among different contacts. 

Answer:
Men in gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men communities should to be aware of any unusual rashes or lesions and contact a sexual health service without delay. UKHSA are  contacting any potential close contacts of the cases to provide health information and advice.  

UKHSA and the NHS have well established and robust infection control procedures for dealing with cases of imported infectious disease and these will be strictly followed.

Answer:
Use of condoms are always encouraged to prevent Sexually Transmitted Infections. Monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted infection by nature, though it can be passed on by direct contact during sex. Contagious lesions, through which infections are most likely to be passed on, can appear on any part of the body so condoms will not necessarily prevent transmission of the virus between two people who are in direct contact. The infection can also be passed on through contact with clothing or linens used by an infected person.
Answer:

Although monkeypox is rare, there are things you can do to reduce your risk of getting it. 

This information is being reviewed carefully as we learn more about the latest cases identified in gay and bisexual men. 

  • Do not share bedding or towels with people who are unwell and may have monkeypox. 

  • Do not have close contact with people who are unwell or have symptoms of monkeypox. 

  • You should wash your hands with soap and water regularly or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser as you may have come into contact with skin lesions or secretions which might have ended up on your hands. 

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