Cases of Monkeypox are spreading globally, and while the risk is small, it is still essential to know the signs to look out for.

According to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), as of 1 August 2022, there are 2672 confirmed and 87 highly probable monkeypox cases in the UK, 2759 in total.

Of these cases, 2638 are in England.

Although more people have been diagnosed with it recently, only a small number of people in the UK have had monkeypox and the risk remains low.

According to the NHS, anyone can get Monkeypox. However, currently, most cases have been in men who are gay, bisexual or have sex with other men.

What is Monkeypox?

Monkeypox cases are usually found in West Africa, and the virus does not often spread elsewhere.

That is why outbreaks reported in Britain, Portugal, Spain and the United States have caused alarm among public health experts.

The disease, which was first discovered in monkeys, is usually mild but can cause severe illness in some cases.

How do you get Monkeypox?

The disease, which was first found in monkeys, can be transmitted from person to person through close physical contact – including sexual intercourse – and is caused by the monkeypox virus.

The NHS website states Monkeypox can be passed on from person to person through the following ways:

  • any close physical contact with monkeypox blisters or scabs (including during sexual contact, kissing, cuddling or holding hands)
  • touching clothing, bedding or towels used by someone with monkeypox
  • the coughs or sneezes of a person with monkeypox when they're close to you
  • In parts of west and central Africa, monkeypox can also be caught from infected rodents (such as rats, mice and squirrels) if:
  • you're bitten
  • you touch its fur, skin, blood, body fluids, spots, blisters or scabs
  • you eat its meat and it has not been cooked thoroughly

What are the symptoms of Monkeypox?

If you have been infected with Monkeypox, symptoms can take between 5 and 21 days to appear. When symptoms do begin you could experience the following:

  • a high temperature
  • a headache
  • muscle aches
  • backache
  • swollen glands
  • shivering (chills)
  • exhaustion
  • joint pain

A rash usually appears 1 to 5 days after the first symptoms. The rash often begins on the face and then spreads to other parts of the body.

The rash is sometimes confused with chickenpox. It starts as raised spots, which turn into small blisters filled with fluid. These blisters eventually form scabs which later fall off.

Does the Smallpox vaccine work for Monkeypox?

The Smallpox vaccine has been used to give protection against Monkeypox as they are both caused by a similar virus.

The NHS is offering smallpox (MVA) vaccination to people who are most likely to be exposed to monkeypox.

People who are most likely to be exposed include:

  • healthcare workers caring for patients with confirmed or suspected monkeypox
  • men who are gay, bisexual or have sex with other men, and who have multiple partners, participate in group sex or attend sex on premises venues (staff who work on these premises may also be eligible)
  • people who've been in close contact with someone who has monkeypox – ideally they should have the vaccine within 4 days of contact, but it can be given up to 14 days after

Health care workers will usually be offered 2 doses of the vaccine.

Men who are gay, bisexual or have sex with other men and close contacts of people with monkeypox will usually be offered 1 dose of the vaccine.

Is there treatment for Monkeypox?

Monkeypox is usually mild and symptoms tend to go away on their own within a few weeks.

If your symptoms are mild, you may be asked to self-isolate at home.

If your symptoms are more severe and you become unwell, you may need treatment in the hospital.

The risk of needing treatment in a hospital is higher for:

  • older people
  • young children
  • people with a condition or who are taking a medicine that affects their immune system

For more information on Monkeypox, visit the NHS information page here.