Monkeypox: UKHSA issues important advice about two symptoms as cases top 300 in the UK

Monkeypox: Dr Chris outlines the main symptoms

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Now the Covid pandemic is receding in the UK, attention has turned to a new viral outbreak. Monkeypox – a rare infection that’s mainly found in parts of west or central Africa – is spreading in the UK. The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has detected 73 additional cases of monkeypox in England, two additional cases in Scotland and two in Wales.

This brings the total number confirmed in the UK to 302 as of 5 June.

There are currently 287 confirmed cases in England, 10 in Scotland, two in Northern Ireland and three in Wales.

The snowballing situation has prompted the UKHSA to issue important advice about two possible symptoms.

According to the health body, you should contact a sexual health clinic if you have a rash with blisters and you’ve been either:

  • In close contact, including sexual contact, with someone who has or might have monkeypox (even if they’ve not been tested yet) in the past three weeks
  • To West or Central Africa in the past three weeks.

Other symptoms to spot

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the illness begins with:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Backache
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Chills
  • Exhaustion.

“Within one to three days (sometimes longer) after the appearance of fever, the patient develops a rash, often beginning on the face then spreading to other parts of the body,” explains the CDC.

Lesions progress through the following stages before falling off:

  • Macules
  • Papules
  • Vesicles
  • Pustules
  • Scabs.

“The illness typically lasts for two to four weeks. In Africa, monkeypox has been shown to cause death in as many as one in 10 persons who contract the disease,” adds the CDC.

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Are you at risk?

“Anyone can get monkeypox, particularly if you have had close contact, including sexual contact, with an individual with symptoms,” explains UKHSA.

Although, “people who are gay or bisexual and men who have sex with men remain disproportionately affected”, notes the health organisation.

How worried should we be?

Although more people have been diagnosed with it recently, only a small number of people in the UK have had monkeypox and the risk remains low.

You’re “extremely unlikely” to have monkeypox if you haven’t been in close contact (such as touching their skin or sharing bedding) with someone who has monkeypox or has monkeypox symptoms.

You’re also unlikely to contract monkeypox if you haven’t recently travelled to West or Central Africa, the health body notes.

Nonetheless, you should phone your GP if:

  • You think that you may have monkeypox
  • You’ve been in close contact with someone who might have monkeypox.

“If your GP is closed, phone 111. In an emergency phone 999,” advises the NHS.

Phone your local sexual health clinic if:

You have genital lesions (for example a blister or sore) and:

  • You think that you may have monkeypox
  • You’ve been in close contact with someone who might have monkeypox.

“If your sexual health clinic is closed, phone your GP. If your GP is closed, phone 111. In an emergency phone 999,” adds the health body.

How is monkeypox diagnosed?

Clinical diagnosis of monkeypox can be difficult, and it is often confused with other infections such as chickenpox.

A definite diagnosis of monkeypox requires assessment by a health professional and specific testing in a specialist laboratory.

In the UK, the Rare and imported pathogens laboratory (RIPL) at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) Porton Down is the designated diagnostic laboratory.

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