Monkeypox: Rare virus case detected in UK

A person in England has been diagnosed with the rare monkeypox viral infection, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has said.

The patient had recently traveled from Nigeria, where he is believed to have contracted the infection, before arriving in the UK.

The person is being treated at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Infectious Diseases Unit in London.

Monkeypox is not easily transmitted between people, but can be transmitted when a person is in close contact with an infected person.

According to the UKHSA, the risk of transmission to the general population is very low.

Experts are currently working closely with the NHS, he said, adding that he will contact people who may have been in close contact with the individual to provide health information and advice.

A number of passengers who traveled near the patient on the same flight to the UK will also be contacted, the health agency said.

Although people without symptoms are not considered contagious, as a precaution those who have been close to the infected person are contacted to ensure that if they do feel unwell they can be treated quickly, the UKHSA added.

Dr Colin Brown, Director of Clinical and Emerging Infections at UKHSA, said: ‘It is important to stress that monkeypox does not spread easily between people and the overall risk to the general public is very low.

“We are working with NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSEI) to contact people who have been in close contact with the case before their infection was confirmed, to assess them if necessary and provide advice.

“The UKHSA and NHS have well established and robust infection control procedures for dealing with cases of imported infectious disease and these will be strictly followed.”

Dr Nicholas Price, director of the NHSE High Consequence Infectious (Airborne) Disease Network and infectious disease consultant at Guy’s and St Thomas’, said: ‘The patient is being treated in our specialist isolation unit at the hospital St Thomas by expert clinical staff with strict infection prevention procedures.

“This is a good example of how the National High Consequence Infectious Diseases Network and the UKHSA are working closely together to respond quickly and effectively to these sporadic cases.”

Initial symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Back ache
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Chills
  • Exhaustion

Other symptoms include rashes, which may develop, often starting on the face and then spreading to other parts of the body. The rash changes and goes through different stages before finally forming a scab, which later falls off.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), monkeypox is a viral zoonosis – a virus transmitted to humans from animals – with symptoms similar to those seen in the past in smallpox patients.

Since 1970, human cases of monkeypox have been reported in 11 African countries – Benin, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Nigeria, Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone and South Sudan.

In 2017, Nigeria experienced the largest documented outbreak, 40 years after the last confirmed case. The true burden of monkeypox is not known.

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