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Monkeypox – what you should know

Posted on: 30 May 2022

Many people would have heard the news of Monkeypox cases spreading in the UK. Below you can find FAQs about the disease, including symptoms, how it spreads, and what you should do if you suspect you or a loved one has the disease. 

What is Monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a rare infectious disease, but there are a number of cases in the UK, and this number is rising. The disease can be caught from infected wild animals in parts of west and central Africa. It's thought to be spread by rodents, such as rats, mice, and squirrels. 

How does Monkeypox spread? 

Through close contact between people, such as: 

  • touching clothing, bedding, or towels used by someone with the monkeypox rash
  • touching monkeypox skin lesions or scabs, particularly if your own skin has sores or cuts
  • the coughs or sneezes of a person with the monkeypox rash.

What are the symptoms of Monkeypox? 

Monkeypox symptoms usually take between 5 and 21 days for the first symptoms to appear. 

The first symptoms of monkeypox include: 

  • a high temperature
  • a headache
  • muscle aches
  • backache
  • swollen glands
  • shivering (chills)
  • exhaustion

A rash usually appears 1 to 5 days after the first symptoms. The rash often begins on the face, then spreads to other parts of the body. 

The rash is sometimes confused with chickenpox. It starts as raised spots, which turn into small blisters filled with fluid. These blisters eventually form scabs which later fall off. 

The symptoms usually clear up in two to four weeks. 

Is Monkeypox spread by sex? 

Monkeypox has not previously been described as a sexually transmitted infection, though it can be passed on by direct contact during sex. It can also be passed on through other close contacts with a person who has monkeypox or contact with clothing or linens used by a person who has monkeypox. 

Is Monkeypox treatable? 

Treatment for monkeypox is mainly supportive, but newer antivirals may be used. The illness is usually mild and most of those infected will recover within a few weeks without treatment. High-quality medical and nursing supportive care will be provided to individuals to manage symptoms. 

What is the death rate for monkeypox? 

The disease caused by monkeypox is usually mild and most of those infected will recover within a few weeks without treatment. However, severe illness can occur in some individuals and those with underlying conditions such as severe immunosuppression. 

Is the risk to the public really low? 

This is a rare and unusual situation. UKHSA is rapidly investigating the source of these infections because the evidence suggests that there may be the transmission of the monkeypox virus in the community, spread by close contact. Monkeypox remains very rare in the UK and the risk to the general public remains low. UKHSA and the NHS have well-established and robust infection control procedures for dealing with cases of imported infectious disease and these will be strictly followed. 

If someone was to die of monkeypox – would that be the first death of monkeypox in the UK?

What should someone do if they suspect they have monkeypox? 

You can help slow the spread of the outbreak. If you think you have Monkeypox symptoms – however mild: 

  • Contact NHS 111 or call a sexual health clinic immediately. Your call will be treated sensitively and confidentially.
  • Avoid close personal or sexual contact with others until you know that this is not Monkeypox. 

Please contact clinics ahead of your visit and avoid close contact with others until you have been seen by a clinician. Your call or discussion will be treated sensitively and confidentially