What is monkeypox, is it deadly, how do you catch it and what are the usual signs, symptoms and treatments of the disease?

MONKEYPOX is a rare disease with most cases found in Africa but there have been a small number of cases in the UK.

In most cases it is a mild illness that can get better with time, however serious symptoms can arise with the patient needing treatment in a specialist hospital.

What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is an infectious disease caused by the monkeypox virus.

This virus is a rare zoonosis – transmitted to humans from animals – and occurs primarily in remote parts of central and west Africa, near tropical rainforests.

It isn't easily spread between people, with transfer usually only possible through close physical contact.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced there had been an outbreak of the monkeypox virus in June 2021, although few details were given.

The Sun has been told there are two cases in North Wales.

The cases would be only the fifth and sixth cases ever recorded in the UK.

Monkeypox has been seen just four times in the past, with cases dating back to 2018 and always in travellers from other countries.

However an NHS nurse once caught the virus in 2018 while changing the bedsheets of a patient in hospital, blaming "pathetically small" protective gloves.

The most recent case was seen in South West England in December 2019 in someone who had visited Nigeria.

Is it deadly?

According to WHO, the monkeypox virus is similar to human smallpox.

Although monkeypox is much milder than smallpox, it can be fatal.

It has a mortality rate of between one and 10 per cent, with most deaths occurring in younger age groups.

How do you catch it?

Infection usually occurs after direct contact with the blood, bodily fluids or skin lesions of an infected animal.

In Africa, human infections have been documented through the handling of infected monkeys, Gambian giant rats and squirrels.

Eating the inadequately cooked meat of an infected animal is a risk.

Human-to-human transmission can result from close contact with the skin lesions of an infected person, or objects recently contaminated by the patient.

This generally requires prolonged face-to-face contact, putting loved ones at greater risk.

Transmission can also occur via the placenta, known as congenital monkeypox.

What are the common signs and symptoms?

Initial symptoms include:

  • fever
  • headache
  • muscle aches
  • backache
  • swollen lymph nodes
  • chills
  • exhaustion

A painful rash and open sores can then develop, usually starting on the face.

If the rash spreads to the eyes it can cause blindness.

Symptoms generally last from 14 to 21 days, with severe cases relating to age, extent of virus exposure, the patient's health and the severity of complications.


What are the treatments of the disease?

There are no specific treatments or vaccines available, but outbreaks can be controlled.

Vaccination against smallpox has been proven to be 85 per cent effective in preventing monkeypox.

However, the vaccine is no longer available to the general public, as it was discontinued after global smallpox eradication.

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