The cases of monkeypox – an uncommon, unrecognized illness - are being researched in European countries, including the UK in addition to within the US, Canada and Australia.
Within the UK There have been about 2,800 confirmed cases over the past few weeks.
The majority of infections are relatively mild, and the risk for the general population is minimal however, it is the UK government has purchased smallpox vaccine in order to protect against monkeypox. More than 100,000 doses of vaccine were purchased to fight the illness.
How common is monkeypox?
Monkeypox is caused monkeypox virus. It is a member of the same virus family as smallpox, but it's much less dangerous and doctors say the odds of contracting the disease are very low. It is most prevalent in the remote regions of the west and central African countries, close to tropical rainforests. In these regions there are more than 1,200 cases of monkeypox as of the beginning of the year. Two main strains of virus that are west African as well as central African have been found to exist. It's the less severe strain from west Africa that is currently circulating in different regions around the globe.
The unusually large number of monkeypox patients outside of Africa without any connections to the region, indicates that the virus is being spread throughout the world. The UK Health Security Agency recommends that anyone who feels about the possibility of contracting the disease should contact NHS 111 or contact their local sexual health clinic but contact them via email or phone ahead of any visit. It is also recommended to people who are infected to avoid sexual relations while suffering from symptoms and to use condoms for 8 weeks after the infection has occurred, to protect themselves.
What are the signs?
The first symptoms are headaches, fever and swellings. Back pain and aching muscles. After the fever has subsided, the rash may develop and usually starts on the face, and expanding to other areas of the body. Most often the palms of hands as well as the soles of feet. This rash could be extremely painful or itchy is prone to change and progress through various stages before eventually creating a scab. It is then removed. Lesions may cause scarring. The infection typically heals by itself and lasts between 14 to 21 days.
How do you catch it?
Monkeypox was not previously classified as being a sexually transmissible illness. However, it could be transferred through close contact. Individuals diagnosed with the virus are advised to wear condoms for eight weeks following recovering from the disease after contracting it.
How dangerous is it?
Most cases of the virus are milder than chickenpox, but can cause long-lasting and painful symptoms.
Are gay men at greater risk?
While some cases have been observed among bisexual and gay males those who come into close contact with a person who has monkeypox may be susceptible to contracting the virus. The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has stated that "a notable proportion" of the cases that have been reported within both the UK and Europe were found to be among bisexual and gay males "so we are particularly encouraging them to be alert to the symptoms and seek help if concerned".
How common are outbreaks?
Since 1970, there have been isolated outbreaks across the 10 African countries. In 2003, there was a sporadic epidemic in the US it was the first time that it had been observed outside of Africa. In 2017 Nigeria witnessed the most extensive known outbreak of the disease. The first time the virus was identified was in a captive monkey.
What is the treatment?
Smallpox vaccination has been proved to be effective at 85% in the prevention of monkeypox. The UK has purchased several thousand doses of the vaccine against smallpox and certain high-risk close contacts of those who are who are infected will receive one. Antiviral medicines can also help as well.
Should the public be concerned?
Health protection agencies are in contact with those who've come in the contact of confirmed illnesses, and are at risk. They're providing assistance and monitoring their progress. Anyone in close contact with a person infected by the virus should stay away from the home for as long as 21 days.