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Should I Be Worried About Monkeypox And What Are The Symptoms?

Emily Brown

Published 
| Last updated 

Should I Be Worried About Monkeypox And What Are The Symptoms?

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has reported seven cases of monkeypox in the last 10 days, so here's everything you need to know about the virus, transmission and symptoms.

As of today (17 May), six cases of the virus have been identified in London and a seventh is located in the north east of England.

The first case is believed to have been contracted when the patient was in Nigeria prior to their travel to the UK, but the most recent cases do not have known connections to the previous cases and have no link to travel to a country where monkeypox is endemic.

Credit: Alamy
Credit: Alamy

Connor Bamford, a virologist at Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland, told LADbible humans will usually initially pick up the monkeypox virus through contact with infected bodily fluids of rodents such as rats, mice and squirrels found across West and central Africa.

The virus is related to variola virus, the virus that causes smallpox, and is not found in the wild in the UK and Europe. There are two different strains, in the Congo Basin & West Africa, with the former being the more severe. The UKHSA has said the patients in the UK have the West African strain.

When it comes to spread within the human population, the virus can transfer via close contact such as direct contact with infected skin lesions or through saliva and other respiratory secretions.

As the most recent cases have no known links to the previous ones, though, the virologist suggested the outbreak could be linked to 'recent spillover of the virus', when the virus is transmitted from one host species from another, either directly from Africa or in the UK of 'live or killed animals for food or for pets'. The UKHSA is working with the NHS to determine exactly where and how the most recent cases acquired their infections .

Though the cause of the spread is yet to be determined, Connor expressed belief that unless directly affected, the general public 'should not be too concerned' given the relatively poor ability of the virus to spread from person to person.

There is about 10 percent chance of onward spread, the virologist said, citing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and he noted the ease of contact tracing combined with isolation prompted by its 'obvious symptoms and long incubation period' should help alleviate concern.

Still, he recommended that people remain vigilant when it comes to close skin or saliva contact in locations linked to previous cases. In order to help prevent the spread, Connor said care must be taken when interacting with a patient, with isolation and personal protection equipment recommended.

Initial symptoms of monkeypox are similar to those of the flu, including fever, headache, muscle ache and feeling tired. Infected patients can also experience swollen and painful lymph nodes in the neck and armpits, as well as a rash which can turn into painful blisters.

Monkeypox can spread via close contact. Credit: Alamy
Monkeypox can spread via close contact. Credit: Alamy

The virus can be fatal, but most people who are diagnosed with monkeypox will recover after about one or two weeks, Connor said the virus itself, however, can remain infectious in dried scabs for weeks 'if not adequately decontaminated'. Treatment for the virus is typically focused on alleviating the symptoms and ensuring adequate isolation, as there is not a licensed treatment for the virus itself.

The UKHSA has advised anyone with concerns they could be infected to make contact with clinics ahead of their visit. Clinicians are also advised to stay alert to individuals presenting with rashes without a clear alternative diagnosis and to contact specialist services for advice.

Featured Image Credit: Alamy/CDC

Topics: Health, UK News, Viral

Emily Brown
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