As you have likely seen on the news, Monkey pox has been declared a global emergency by the WHO (World Health Organisation) as more than 16,000 cases have been reported from 75 different countries. Currently in 2022, monkeypox has been found in countries where the disease is not regularly found, such as in the UK.
Monkeypox is mainly found in the tropical rainforest areas of Central and West Africa and can be spread from animal to human or through close human-to-human contact. The first human case was recorded in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Since then, the WHO have reported monkeypox cases in
other areas of Benin, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Cote d’lvoire, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Gabon, Liberia, Nigeria, Republic of Congo, Seirra Leone and South Sudan.
Cases of monkey pox was reported in America in 2003 when an outbreak started with a person coming into close contact with pet prairie dogs, whom were infected by imported African rodents and occasionally travel related cases would be identified for example in the UK in 2021.
But what about monkeypox today What are the symptoms? How is it spread? What symptoms should you look out for? Is it dangerous? How is it treated? Read further on to find out.
MONKEYPOX SYMPTOMS – WHERE ON THE BODY DO MONKEY POX SYMPTOMS START?
If you contract monkeypox, symptoms usually appear between five and twenty-one days. Between one and five days after a fever has developed, a generalised rash can appear around the genital area, bottom region or the face, which can spread to other parts of your body. The rash will go through different
stages and will end up with a scab.
A person will be contagious until after the scab falls off and the skin underneath becomes intact. It is important to note that the scab may also be infectious.
Other signs and symptoms to look out for are:
- A headache
- Muscle aches
- Swollen glands (lymph nodes)
- Shivering (chills)
While you have symptoms, you can pass monkeypox on to other people. Anyone who thinks they may be experiencing possible monkeypox symptoms should contact NHS 111 for advice.
HOW IS MONKEY POX SPREAD?
ANIMAL TO HUMAN (ZOONOTIC TRANSMISSION)
Monkeypox is caused by the monkeypox virus, which is a member of the Orthopoxvirus genus in the family Poxviridae. It can be transmitted from animals to humans and present similar symptoms to those seen in people with smallpox. The types of animal species who are susceptible to the monkeypox virus include:
- Rope squirrels
- Tree squirrels
- Gambian pouched rats
- Non-human primates.
Monkeypox can be transmitted from animals to humans if:
- You are bitten
- You touch its fur
- You touch its blood, body fluids, spots, blisters or scabs
Eating inadequately cooked meats and other infected animals is also a possible risk factor. However further studies are currently being carried out to try and understand how the virus circulates, what are the sources of infection, its epidemiology and what the various patterns of transmission include.
You are extremely unlikely to contract monkeypox if:
- You have not been in close contact (touching skin, towels, clothing or bedding) with a person who has monkeypox or has monkeypox symptoms
- You have not recently travelled to endemic regions/countries where monkeypox is found.
HUMAN TO HUMAN
Monkeypox can also be transmitted from person to person. While the virus is not easily spread between people, it can be passed on through close person-to-person contact or if someone comes into close contact with contaminated clothing, bedding, towels or utensils.
People who are at greater risk of contracting the disease during the current outbreak are:
- Healthcare workers who are in close contact with active patients.
- Household members who are in close contact with active family members.
- Unborn babies – Via placenta from mother to foetus.
- Close contact during or after birth.
- People who have travelled to a monkeypox endemic country in the past 21 days before symptoms have become apparent.
- Gay, bisexual or other men who have sex with men.
- People who engage with multiple sexual partners (regardless of sexual orientation).
IS MONKEY POX DANGEROUS?
Most people will experience a mild, self-limiting illness with a complete recovery in around 3 weeks however severe illness can occur and sometimes result in death. Severe disease poses a higher risk in children, older people, pregnant women and people who are immunosuppressed or who are taking
medications which can affect their immune system.
Monkeypox can also cause secondary infections such as bronchopneumonia, sepsis, encephalitis and loss of vision from an infected cornea.
HOW IS MONKEYPOX TREATED?
Monkeypox is usually mild and most people recover in around 3 weeks without treatment. If symptoms of monkey pox arise (please see section ‘where on the body does monkeypox symptoms start?’) then you would need to self-isolate at home and ensure to keep yourself hydrated with plenty of fluids and eat
However, for people whose symptoms are more severe who become unwell, they may be required to seek treatment in hospital for antiviral drugs for a weakened immune system, antibiotics for secondary illnesses related to monkeypox and fluids to help maintain their hydration.
IS THERE A MONKEY POX VACCINE?
Monkeypox virus is related to a family of viruses, which cause smallpox. As both monkeypox and smallpox share the same genus, the smallpox vaccine should give a good level of protection against monkeypox.
NHS is offering the vaccination to people who are at risk of exposure to monkeypox. People include:
- Healthcare workers
- Gay, Bi-sexual males or men who have sex with men
- People who have been in close contact with someone who has monkeypox
If you are at risk of exposure, your local NHS provider will contact you and offer you the vaccine. You can also check online to receive advice from your local sexual health service or if you are avoiding close contact with others and are self-isolating then you can call NHS 111 for further information.
If you require further advice, you can also contact the Nomad Travel Health Clinic:
CDC Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (2022) Monkeypox Treatment. Available at: Treatment | Monkeypox | Poxvirus | CDC
NHS (2022) Monkeypox. Available at: Monkeypox – NHS (www.nhs.uk) (Accessed: 26/07/2022)
Pummer, R (2022) Monkeypox: WHO declares highest alert over outbreak. Available at: Monkeypox: WHO declares highest alert over outbreak – BBC News (Accessed: 26/07/2022)
The Green Book (2022) Smallpox and Monkeypox. Available at: Green Book Chapter 29 Smallpox and monkeypox (publishing.service.gov.uk)
Travel Health Pro (2022) Monkeypox. Available at: NaTHNaC – Monkeypox (travelhealthpro.org.uk) (Accessed: 26/07/2022)
World Health Organisation (2022) Monkeypox. Available at: Monkeypox (who.int) (Accessed: 26/07/2022)