Monkeypox

Monkeypox

What is Monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by an infection with monkeypox virus. This virus belongs to the Orthopoxvirus genus, which also includes the variola virus (which causes smallpox), the vaccinia virus (which is used in the smallpox vaccine), and the cowpox virus.

Monkeypox is most commonly contracted in central and western Africa, from which the two main strains derive. Monkeypox cases have been detected in people outside of Africa, usually linked through international travel or imported animals (e.g. rodents).

How is it spread?

Monkeypox is spread when a the virus enters the body through broken skin (even if not visible), via the respiratory tract, or  mucous membranes (eyes, nose, or mouth). It does not usually spread easily between people, as it is passed on through close person-to-person contact. This includes:

  • touching clothing, bedding or towels used by someone with the monkeypox rash
  • touching monkeypox skin blisters or scabs
  • the coughs or sneezes of a person with monkeypox

Symptoms

Stages of monkeypox blistering

A rash is the most visible symptom of this viral infection, however you may be infectious for several days before it develops. The rash can be extremely itchy or painful, and the lesions change over time from raised spots to fluid-filled blisters. The blisters then become flattened lesions that begin to scab and later fall off. The lesions can cause scarring.

Other symptoms of note include a high fever (≥ 38°C), chills, headaches, exhaustion, muscle aches, joint pain, backache, and swollen lymph nodes.

Monkeypox infections usually clear up on their own, they typically last between 14 and 21 days.

Complications of Monkeypox

Monkeypox can cause secondary infections for example where the blisters burst and become infected. Other complications include sepsis, infection of the cornea which can cause loss of vision, and bronchopneumonia. Fatality from monkeypox remains low, in around three to six percent of cases.

How do you know it is Monkeypox?

Clinical diagnosis of monkeypox can be difficult, and it is often confused with other infections such as chickenpox. A definitive diagnosis will require assessment by a health professional and confirmatory laboratory tests (based on swabs from one or more vesicles or ulcers).

The chance of having the virus increases if you have:

  • been exposed to a confirmed or probable case in the 21 days before your symptoms started, or
  • a history of travelling to an area where monkeypox is endemic, or where an outbreak has been identified in the previous 21 days.

Treatment

There are no specific treatments available for monkeypox infection, but outbreaks can be controlled usually through Contact Tracing methods and the use of vaccines and/or antivirals where required.

Prevention

Raising awareness of risk factors and educating people about infection prevention are the main ways to prevent the spread of this virus. Scientific studies are on-going to assess the appropriateness of vaccination for the prevention and control of monkeypox. Some countries may use policies to offer vaccines to people who are at high risk of contracting the virus, for example front-line health workers or laboratory workers. The smallpox vaccine is seen to be around 85% effective in preventing monkeypox, belonging to the same viral genus.

Read more…

Local Guidance / Resources can be found HERE.

Additional information on Monkeypox can be found from UKHSA here or on the WHO factsheet here.