The UKHSA is urgently investigating a number of monkeypox cases identified in the UK. You can get our updates on this GOV.UK page.
Monkeypox is a viral infection commonly associated with travel to West Africa. This is the first time a suspected community has been infected in the UK where it has been without familiar links to local countries, so the current situation is unusual and we are working urgently to learn more.
Monkeypox is usually a mild illness that does not spread easily in humans and gets better on its own, with most people recovering within a few weeks. The risk is lower for the UK population, but it is being reviewed as we continue to investigate and learn more about the type and risk of infection.
This blog has information about monkeypox, its symptoms, how it spreads, how we treat it and what to do if you are worried.
What are the symptoms and how does it spread?
Early symptoms of monkeypox include fever, headache, muscle aches, back pain, swollen lymph nodes, chills and fatigue. A rash may form, often starting at the mouth, then spreading to other parts of the body, including the genitals.
The rash changes and goes into different stages, and may look like chickenpox or syphilis, before finally forming a scab, which then falls off.
The virus enters the body through broken skin (even if not visible), respiratory tract or mucous membranes (eyes, nose or mouth) and is not usually easily spread in humans.
It can spread when a person comes in close contact with someone or something contaminated with the virus.
It is advisable to contact NHS 111 or the Sexual Health Clinic first if anyone is concerned about being infected. People should inform the clinics before visiting them. Calls or discussions in clinics will be treated sensitively and confidentially. If confirmed, the UKHSA Local Health Protection Team will be contacted to help identify and locate contacts so that appropriate public health measures can be taken to prevent the spread of infection.
What if I had close contact with someone who was infected with monkeypox?
We are liaising with any known close acquaintances of the case to provide health information and advice.
How is it treated?
Most monkeypox sufferers will recover within a few weeks without treatment.
Monkeypox treatment is sometimes given to help people avoid the more serious consequences of the virus.
Is there a vaccine?
There is no specific vaccine for monkeypox, but the vaccine (smallpox) vaccine provides some protection. Vaccines given to acquaintances after exposure to the virus can prevent the development of infection or reduce the severity of the illness, depending on how fast it can be given.
Some healthcare professionals who are individuals and who have a high level of exposure may be given this smallpox vaccine after an assessment.
Is MonkeyPix an STI and why are gay and bisexual men being asked to be especially careful?
Recent events in the UK and Europe have been mainly among gay and bisexual men, so we urge these communities in particular to be aware of the symptoms and seek help if they are concerned.
Monkeypox has not previously been described as a sexually transmitted infection, although it can come into direct contact during sex. It can also be transmitted through close contact with a person infected with monkeypox or through contact with clothing or linen used by a person infected with monkeypox.
The UKHSA recommends that anyone who has had a regular sex change, or who has close contact with people they do not know, should come forward if they have a rash.
What is the UKHSA doing to find the cause?
The UKHSA has quickly identified the case and we are continuing to conduct extensive tracing of the contacts of anyone who has come in contact with the case to make sure it is stopped. We are rapidly investigating the source of this infection and are liaising with four UK public health agencies to raise awareness among healthcare professionals about what to look for.
Anyone who thinks they may have symptoms of monkeypox should call NHS 111 or call their local sexual health center as appropriate.
You can read more about epidemiology, symptoms, diagnosis and management of monkeypox virus infection at gov.uk here.