Two Cases of Monkeypox Reported in the UK

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lesions of monkeypox
Characteristic rash in Monkeypox. Source: Getty Images

On 10th June, public health officials reported two cases of monkeypox in north Wales, UK.

Monkeypox is an infectious zoonotic disease that often occurs in tropical areas of Central and West Africa. Caused by the monkeypox virus, the disease is similar to smallpox. It often presents with fever, muscle pains, headache, and a characteristic rash. The rash appears 1-3 days after the fever and mostly affects the face and extremities. It starts off as a raised red bump that transforms into a blister and then forms a scab. Moreover, the rash can be itchy and painful.

As the name suggests, the monkeypox virus is commonly found in monkeys. And also in the rodent population in Africa. Animal bites, handling bushmeat, and droplet exposure can infect humans. As mild cases are common, human-to-human transmission is a concern. In certain cases, the disease can present as severe infection and cause complications or even death. However, most cases of the disease are self-limiting with symptoms lasting 2-4 weeks. There are currently no treatment options for the disease. In case of outbreaks, smallpox vaccines are often used to control the spread of infection.

The first outbreak of the disease occurred in 1970, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Since then, multiple outbreaks have occurred across the world; mostly in the African region.

‘Risk is Very Low’

On 10th June, Public Health Wales (PHW) reported two cases of ‘imported monkeypox’ in the region. UK’s health secretary, Matt Hancock confirmed the outbreak later on Thursday. However, this is not the first time monkeypox cases have appeared in the UK. The country reported its first case in September 2018. The man had contracted the disease in Nigeria. Since then, a total of six cases have occurred in the UK.

On 8th May 2021, a patient returned from Nigeria after having lived and worked there for some time. As per the COVID-19 protocols, he remained quarantined at his home with his family. Two days later, he began to develop a rash. After completion of his self-isolation, he presented to a hospital for his symptoms. PCR done on skin samples confirmed the presence of the monkeypox virus. Health officials immediately carried out contact tracing and implemented healthcare measures.

The second patient, a family member of the first one, began to develop similar lesions on 29th May. He was also admitted into a hospital and kept in isolation. According to health authorities, the first patient has since been discharged.

Confirmed cases of monkeypox are a rare event in the UK, and the risk to the general public is very low. We have worked with multi-agency colleagues, following tried and tested protocols and procedures, and identified all close contacts. Actions have been put in place to minimise the likelihood of further infection.

Richard Firth, PHW’s consultant in health protection

Source: The World Health Organization.

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