Monkeypox in the UK: What is the disease? What are the symptoms? How easily is it transmitted?

The UK has seen its first case of monkeypox, according to the Health Security Agency, but what is the disease, how can you catch it and what are the symptoms?

By Richard Beecham
Saturday, 7th May 2022, 4:30 pm

What is it?

Monkeypox is a rare viral infection that does not spread easily between people. It is usually a mild illness that most people recover from within a few weeks. However, severe illness can occur in some individuals.

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Health experts are monitoring the patient. (Pic: Adobestock)

What are the symptoms?

Initial 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 before finally forming a scab, which later falls off.

What about the person who has it?

It is believed the person who tested positive for the disease had recvently travelled to Nigeria, where they are believed to have caught the disease.

The patient is receiving care at the infectious disease unit at the Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, London.

UKHSA experts say they are working with NHS colleagues and will be contacting people who might have been in close contact with the individual to provide information and health advice.

This includes contacting a number of passengers who travelled in close proximity to the patient on the same flight to the UK. People without symptoms are not considered infectious but, as a precaution, those who have been in close proximity are being contacted to ensure that if they do become unwell they can be treated quickly. If passengers are not contacted then there is no action they should take.

What are the experts saying?

Dr Colin Brown, Director of Clinical and Emerging Infections, UKHSA, said: "It is important to emphasise that monkeypox does not spread easily between people and the overall risk to the general public is very low.

"We are working with NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSEI) to contact the individuals who have had close contact with the case prior to confirmation of their infection, to assess them as necessary and provide advice."

Dr Nicholas Price, director NHSE High Consequence Infection Diseases (airborne) Network and Consultant in Infectious Diseases at Guy’s and St Thomas’, said: "The patient is being treated in our specialist isolation unit at St Thomas’ Hospital by expert clinical staff with strict infection prevention procedures. This is a good example of the way that the High Consequence Infectious Diseases national network and UKHSA work closely together in responding swiftly and effectively to these sporadic cases."