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Monkeypox – what you need to know

May 20, 2022

While it may be regarded as a rare infection, monkeypox is on the rise in Europe, the UK and North America.

As cases of monkeypox rise across Europe and North America, we look at what you need to know and ask should we be concerned?

Although the disease is more commonly found in remote parts of Central and West Africa, at least 13 suspected cases are currently being investigated in Canada, with a further nine in the UK and around a dozen in Portugal and Spain.

How dangerous is it?

While it is a member of the same family of viruses as smallpox, monkeypox is much less severe and experts say chances of infection are low.

However, it has been reported that the UK is stockpiling ‘thousands’ of monkeypox vaccines and drugs, as experts fear dozens of infections may be slipping under the radar.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms are similar to those of chickenpox and include fever, headaches, swellings, back pain, aching muscles and lethargy.

This can be accompanied by a rash that begins on the face and spreads to other parts of the body, including the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.

The rash can be incredibly itchy and goes through several stages before forming a scab and falling off. The lesions can cause scarring.

The infection usually clears up on its own and lasts between two and three weeks.

How is it treated?

There is no treatment for monkeypox, but outbreaks can be controlled by infection prevention.

Vaccination against smallpox has been proven to be 85 per cent effective in preventing monkeypox and is still sometimes used.

How does it spread?

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.

Should we be concerned?

Despite the frightening name and the apparent rise in cases, monkeypox remains a rare occurrence, hence the increased media focus and attention on it right now.

Transmission between humans remains rare. However, anyone displaying symptoms of the infection should seek medical attention immediately.

Related: Clean hands reduce infections

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