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What is Monkeypox? Symptoms of virus identified in UK, is it deadly, is it contagious and is there a vaccine

Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus

Up to 30 June 2022, there were 1,235 laboratory confirmed cases of monkeypox in the UK.

Monkeypox was also listed as a notifiable disease in law from 8 June 2022.

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This means all doctors in England are required to notify their local council or local Health Protection Team (HPT) if they suspect a patient has monkeypox.

Laboratories must also notify the UKHSA if the monkeypox virus is identified in a laboratory sample.

Monkeypox is a contagious disease which spreads in tropical Africa (Photo: AFP via Getty Images)

But what is monkeypox and what are the signs and symptoms?

Here’s what you need to know.

What is monkeypox and how is it spread?

Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus.

Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus (Photo: CDC/Getty Images)

Monkeypox is usually a mild illness that will get better on its own without treatment, but some people can develop more serious symptoms, so patients with monkeypox in the UK are cared for in specialist hospitals.

However, there have only been a very small number of cases of monkeypox in the UK and when there is a case, health professionals will aim to contact anyone who has been in close contact with the infected person.

The NHS website says: “If you have not been contacted, be reassured you are extremely unlikely to catch monkeypox.”

Monkeypox does not spread easily between people, but it's possible to catch it from:

  • touching items like clothing, bedding or towels used by an infected person
  • touching monkeypox spots or scabs
  • a person with a monkeypox rash who coughs or sneezes near you

What are the symptoms of monkeypox?

The illness begins with:

  • high temperature
  • headache
  • muscle aches
  • backache
  • swollen glands
  • chills
  • exhaustion

A rash then usually begins one to five days after the first symptoms appear. The spots often start on the face before spreading to other parts of the body.

During the illness, the rash then changes from raised red bumps, to spots filled with fluid, with the spots eventually forming scabs which later fall off.

How is monkeypox diagnosed and treated?

The NHS explains that “it's difficult to know if the infection is monkeypox as it can often be confused with other infections such as chickenpox.”

The virus is diagnosed after an examination by a specialist and treatment for monkeypox aims to relieve the symptoms and takes place in specialist hospitals.

The illness is usually mild and most of those infected will recover within a few weeks without treatment. It is not usually a deadly virus