Monkeypox outbreak in UK: what are the symptoms and how does it spread?

By Helen Johnson
Saturday, 12th June 2021, 10:32 am
Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus (Photo: CDC/Getty Images)
Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus (Photo: CDC/Getty Images)

Two cases of monkeypox have been identified in north Wales health officials have said.

Public Health Wales (PHW) said the initial case was acquired overseas and both cases were identified in two people from the same household.

PHW added that monitoring and contact tracing is now taking place and the risk to the general public is very low.

But what is monkeypox and what are the signs and symptoms?

Here’s what you need to know.

What is monkeypox and how is it spread?

Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus.

Most cases have been in Africa and the risk of catching monkeypox in the UK is very low, the NHS explains.

Monkeypox is usually a mild illness that will get better on its own without treatment, but some people can develop more serious symptoms, so patients with monkeypox in the UK are cared for in specialist hospitals.

However, there have only been a very small number of cases of monkeypox in the UK and when there is a case, health professionals will aim to contact anyone who has been in close contact with the infected person.

The NHS website says: “If you have not been contacted, be reassured you are extremely unlikely to catch monkeypox.”

Monkeypox does not spread easily between people, but it's possible to catch it from:

- touching items like clothing, bedding or towels used by an infected person

- touching monkeypox spots or scabs

- a person with a monkeypox rash who coughs or sneezes near you

What are the symptoms of monkeypox?

The illness begins with:

- high temperature

- headache

- muscle aches

- backache

- swollen glands

- chills

- exhaustion

A rash then usually begins one to five days after the first symptoms appear. The spots often start on the face before spreading to other parts of the body.

During the illness, the rash then changes from raised red bumps, to spots filled with fluid, with the spots eventually forming scabs which later fall off.

How is monkeypox diagnosed and treated?

The NHS explains that “it's difficult to know if the infection is monkeypox as it can often be confused with other infections such as chickenpox.”

The virus is diagnosed after an examination by a specialist and treatment for monkeypox aims to relieve the symptoms and takes place in specialist hospitals.