Monkeypox: What is monkeypox, what are the symptoms, and are there cases in Scotland?

UKHSA emphasises that the risk to the UK population is low.

Thursday, 26th May 2022, 9:08 am

Seven more cases of monkeypox have been identified in England, health officials have said. The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said the new cases bring the UK total since May 7 to 78.

UKHSA is working to find links between the latest cases, many of which originated in the capital. Common contacts have been established between two of the four individuals who have caught the virus.

Here’s what you need to know about monkeypox and how to spot it.

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What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a rare infection that is largely found in west or central Africa, spread by wild animals. According to the NHS, the risk of catching it in the UK is very low.

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What are the symptoms of monkeypox?

Close contacts of the latest cases of monkeypox are being contacted and offered information and health advice "as a precautionary measure", the UKHSA said. Photo: UK Health Security Agency/PA Wire.

The health body is asking these groups "to be alert" to possible symptoms, which include rashes or lesions on any part of their body, especially their genitalia, and to contact a sexual health service if they have concerns.

Due to the recent rise in case numbers and uncertainties around the spread, UKHSA has said it is working closely with NHS partners to establish whether there have been any more cases in recent weeks, and international partners to examine whether other countries have seen a similar rise in monkeypox.

The rash, which can develop as part of the virus, changes and goes through different stages before finally forming a scab, which later falls off. The health agency also said that initial symptoms of monkeypox include fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion.

Monkeypox pictured here as seen through a microscope. Photo: Science Photo Library.

How is monkeypox spread?

Those needing care are being treated in specialist infectious disease units at the Royal Free Hospital, Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle upon Tyne and Guy's and St Thomas'. These cases do not, however, seem to be connected to the previous confirmed cases of monkeypox in the UK which were announced on May 14th, nor the first UK case announced on May 7th, which has led to concerns that there has been transmission of the virus in the community.

The first case was a person who had recently travelled to Nigeria, which is where they were believed to have contracted the infection, before travelling to the UK. Monkeypox is most commonly spread by bites or scratches from an infected animal, but it may also be possible to catch the disease by eating meat from an infected animal that was not cooked thoroughly.

The NHS states that, although it’s very uncommon to catch monkeypox from another human, it can be spread through touching clothing or bedding used by an infected person, touching monkeypox blisters or scabs, and via coughs and sneezes from an infected person.

UKHSA added that all four of the most recent cases self-identify as gay, bisexual or other men who have sex with men. The health agency emphasises that the virus does not spread easily between people and the risk to the UK population is low.

Are there monkeypox cases in Scotland?

The first case of monkeypox in Scotland has been confirmed, Public Health Scotland has announced.

“Public Health Scotland is aware of an individual in Scotland who is confirmed to have monkeypox,” explained Dr Nick Phin, Director of Public Health Science and Medical Director, PHS. “The affected individual is being managed and treated in line with nationally agreed protocols and guidance.

“We have well established and robust infection control procedures for dealing with such cases of infectious disease and these will be strictly followed.

“We are working with NHS Boards and wider partners in Scotland and the UK to investigate the source of this infection. Close contacts of the case are being identified and provided with health information and advice. This may include the offer of vaccination. The overall risk to the general public is low.

“Anyone with an unusual blister-like rash or small number of blister-like sores on any part of their body, including their genital area, should avoid close contact with others and seek medical advice if they have any concerns.”

Additional reporting by PA.