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Monkeypox detected in the UK: Here’s what we know about the virus

Picture: The World Health Organisation.

Picture: The World Health Organisation.

Published May 16, 2022

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Several cases of monkeypox - a rare viral infection related to smallpox - have been confirmed by health authorities in the United Kingdom.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said the first case was detected in a traveller who recently flew into the UK from Nigeria earlier this month.

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Over the weekend, two more cases of monkeypox were reported.

UKHSA director of clinical and emerging infections, Dr Colin Brown, said the two new cases are not linked to a monkeypox case recorded earlier this month.

“While investigations remain ongoing to determine the source of infection, it is important to emphasise it does not spread easily between people and requires close personal contact with an infected symptomatic person. The overall risk to the general public remains very low,” he said.

According to the World Health Organisation, monkeypox is a sylvatic zoonosis, which means the virus is mostly transmitted to people from wild animals such as rodents and primates, but human-to-human transmission also occurs.

Cases usually occur sporadically in forested parts of Central and West Africa.

Symptoms can take between five and 21 days to appear, and can include fever, headache, muscle aches, backache and swollen lymph nodes.

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In some cases, a rash and puss-filled boils cover the body of those infected.

The virus is known to be less contagious than Covid-19, but can be transmitted by contact with body fluids, respiratory droplets and contaminated materials such as bedding.

Human monkeypox was first identified in humans in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Since then, cases have been reported from 11 African countries.

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The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said that since the re-emergence of monkeypox in Nigeria in September 2017, the country has continued to record sporadic cases of the disease from states across the country.

“Between September 2017 and April 30, 2022, a total of 558 cases and eight deaths have been confirmed from 22 states. Of these, 15 cases have been confirmed in 2022 alone - this does not constitute an outbreak,” according to a statement.

While there is currently no specific treatment recommended for monkeypox, vaccination against smallpox with vaccinia vaccine was demonstrated to be about 85% effective in preventing monkeypox, said the WHO.

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