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Rare case of monkeypox confirmed in the UK

File picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

File picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

Published May 11, 2022


An extremely rare case of monkeypox has reared its itchy head in England after a traveller tested positive for the virus upon returning from a trip to Nigeria.

The BBC reported that the patient is being treated at an expert infectious disease unit at Guy’s and St Thomas NHS (National Health Insurance) trust in London.

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In an update published on Saturday, the UK Health Security Agency said that “as a precautionary measure, its experts are working closely with NHS colleagues and will be contacting people who might have been in close contact with the individual to provide information and health advice”

The US Centres for Disease Control explains that monkeypox is a rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus. The virus belongs to the Orthopoxvirus genus in the same family as the variola virus which causes smallpox, the vaccinia virus used in the smallpox vaccine and the cowpox virus.

Initial symptoms of monkeypox include fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion, the UKHSA said.

A rash will begin developing on the face and then spread to the rest of the body. This rash will go through several changes before finally forming a scab, which would later fall off.

Monkeypox can be spread when someone is in close contact with an infected person. The virus can enter the body through broken skin, the respiratory tract or through the eyes, nose or mouth. It can also be spread by contact with infected animals such as monkeys, rats and squirrels, or by virus-contaminated objects, such as bedding and clothing.

The virus was first discovered in 1958 when two outbreaks of a pox-like disease occurred in colonies of monkeys kept for research, hence its name. The first human case of monkeypox was recorded in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) during a period of intensified effort to eliminate smallpox. Since then, monkeypox has been reported in people in several other central and western African countries with most infections in the DRC.

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Monkeypox cases in people have occurred outside of Africa linked to international travel or imported animals, including cases in the United States, as well as Israel, Singapore, and the United Kingdom.

The natural host animal of monkeypox remains unknown. However, African rodents and monkeys may carry the virus and infect people.