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What is monkeypox, how serious is the outbreak, and what can you do to avoid it?

It is difficult to catch Monkeypox from someone with the infection. Most cases are caught from wild animals in West Central Africa.

The monkeypox virus, which was first discovered in monkeys, can transmit the disease to humans through close physical contact and sexual intercourse.

The World Health Organisation’s head declared Saturday’s monkeypox epidemic a “global emergency”, despite the WHO committee not being able to reach a consensus.

He explained that the declaration was intended to stimulate an international response to the outbreak. This could lead to funding and sharing of vaccines.

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How many cases exist in the UK?

The UK Health Security Agency has so far confirmed 2,208 cases in the UK, of which 2,115 are in England.


How many cases worldwide are there?

The WHO reports that there were 15,328 monkeypox cases in laboratories as of 21 July, along with 72 probable cases and five deaths from the disease since January 2022.


What countries are most affected?

The WHO lists the following 10 countries as the most affected:

* Spain (3.125)* Germany (2.191)

* United Kingdom (2.137)

* United States of America (2.102)

* France (1.453)

* Netherlands (656).

* Canada (604)

* Portugal (515).

* Brazil (384)

* Italy (374).

The WHO states that these countries account for over 88% of all cases worldwide.

There is a noticeable lag between UKHSA’s reports and the World Health Organisation’s figures for the UK.


How does it spread?

Chief medical advisor for UKHSA Dr Susan Hopkins has warned that monkeypox can spread through community transmission.

The virus is most prevalent among gay and bisexual men, 98% of whom are infected.

Dr Hopkins answered the question, “That’s because they have frequent close contacts.”

“We recommend anyone experiencing changes in their sex partners or close contact with people they don’t know to come forward if they get a rash.”

A form of smallpox vaccine is available that is safe for people who have been in contact with cases. There is no vaccine for monkeypox.

Some evidence has shown that children are more likely to experience severe symptoms. Public health teams are working hard to stop the spread of the virus.

Image: The stages and effects of monkeypox. Pic by UK Health Security Agency


Could it be similar to COVID-19’s?

According to the WHO, the virus is not as contagious because it needs close contact in order to spread.

The WHO stated that there is a window of opportunity for controlling this epidemic by working closely with communities, groups and individuals at greater risk.

“It is crucial that everyone works together now to stop spread of the disease by understanding their risk and taking steps to reduce it.”


How do you catch monkeypox in your home?

The NHS states that monkeypox can be contracted if an infected animal bites you or you touch its blood, fluids, spots, blisters, or skin.

Although it is rare to catch the disease from an infected person, transmission can occur through close contact, including sexual intercourse and touching clothing, bedding, towels, or other items that are used by someone with the rash.

You could also be at risk from contact with their blisters, scabs, or from their coughs and sneezes.

According to health experts, the infection can also occur if you eat meat from infected animals that have not been properly cooked.

You can also get monkeypox from touching skin or fur products that were made by infected animals.

This rare disease is spread mostly by rodents such as mice, rats and squirrels in areas of west or central Africa.

When traveling to these areas, it is important to wash your hands and use hand sanitizers. Only eat cooked meat.

To reduce infection, it is important to avoid being near wild or stray animal, even if they are sick or dead.


What symptoms should you be looking out for?

Symptoms usually appear between 5 and 21 days.

Initial symptoms include high temperatures, headaches, muscle aches and backache, swelling of the glands, shivering, and exhaustion.

A rash usually appears between one and five working days after first symptoms. It starts on the skin and spreads to other areas of the body.

You can confuse it with chickenpox because it starts with raised spots.

Symptoms usually resolve in two to four week, but some patients may need hospital treatment.

An international group of 16 clinicians from 16 countries has identified single genital lesions as symptoms.

Anybody concerned about possible symptoms should come forward to have a check-up.


What should you do if you have come in contact with someone with monkeypox.

According to the most recent government guidance, monkeypox victims at high risk should be isolated for 21 days.

According to the UKHSA, people who have been in “unprotected direct or high-risk environment contact” should be isolated for at least three weeks.

This does not include travel. It also includes providing contact details to trace contact and avoiding direct contact.

It states that those at high risk for monkeypox could have been in close contact with the affected person, had sexual contact or changed the bedding of an infected person without using appropriate PPE.

The UKHSA recommends that they receive a smallpox vaccination.

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