Monkeypox: UK cases rise to 71, with vaccines for high-risk contacts

- BBC News

Monkeypox: UK cases rise to 71, with vaccines for high-risk contacts

The monkeypox virus has been found in 14 more people in England, bringing the total number of cases in the UK to 71, health officials say.

They are tracing high-risk close contacts of the cases to advise them to isolate at home for 21 days.

A smallpox vaccine is being offered to prevent them developing symptoms.

Anyone with unusual rashes or lesions on any part of the body should contact NHS 111 or their local sexual health service.

Dr David Phillips, a sexual health consultant in south London, said clinics were still "open for business" even though some staff are isolating, and appointments are being held by phone to reduce the risk of monkeypox spreading.

He said some patients were getting frustrated, but urged them to "be patient with us".

Dr Phillips calls back anyone with an unusual rash and can see them face-to-face if wearing mask, goggles, gown and gloves.

He said his clinic had seen a very small number of monkeypox cases.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) says many of the 71 people infected so far have been gay, bisexual or men who have sex with men - and it has been asking these groups in particular to be aware of the symptoms.

But monkeypox is not a sexually-transmitted disease, and experts stress the illness does not affect one community more than any other, so there should be no stigma.

The virus, which is usually a mild infection, spreads through close contact with scabs on the skin, bedding and towels used by an infected person - and through their coughs and sneezes.

The overall risk to the public is low, the UKHSA says, despite the rise in cases amid the largest outbreak of monkeypox outside Africa.

So far in this outbreak, which started in early May, there have been 131 cases of monkeypox in more than 15 countries.

Most are in Europe, where it is rarely seen, although there have been more than 1,200 cases in recent months in West Africa, where it is always present. In the UK, all the cases are in England, apart from one in Scotland. No cases have been found in Wales or Northern Ireland.

More than 1,000 doses of the smallpox vaccine Imvanex are being sent to NHS Trusts, and another 3,500 doses are in the UK.

The World Health Organization says the outbreak is "containable" and it is providing advice to countries on how to tackle the situation.

Monkeypox is usually associated with travel to Central or West Africa, but some of the cases which have been occurring outside these countries have had no travel link.

It does not spread easily between people, but it can be spread through:

If you get infected with monkeypox, it usually takes between five and 21 days for the first symptoms to appear.

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 - a bit like chicken pox - before finally forming a scab, which later falls off.

Read more about the virus here.



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