A third person has been diagnosed with monkeypox in England, health officials have confirmed – a healthcare worker who treated the patient diagnosed with monkeypox at Blackpool Victoria Hospital in September.
Dr Nick Phin, deputy director of the national infection service at Public Health England, said the case was “not wholly unexpected”, but does this mean there is a risk of the rare viral infection spreading?
Public Health England (PHE) has confirmed monkeypox doesn’t spread very easily, only if you come into close contact with an infected person.
The illness has been reported mainly in central and west African countries. In September 2017, Nigeria experienced a large sustained outbreak of monkeypox and since then sporadic cases have continued to be reported.
Dr Phin said it’s likely that monkeypox continues to circulate in Nigeria and could therefore affect travellers who are returning from there.
Symptoms of monkeypox
Monkeypox is related to smallpox, but is less infectious and less deadly. Initial symptoms include:
:: muscle aches
:: swollen lymph nodes
A rash can develop, often beginning on the face, then spreading to other parts of the body. It changes and goes through different stages before finally forming a scab, which later falls off. The rash can scar the skin, in a similar way to chickenpox spots.
Is it dangerous?
The infection has been reported twice in the UK in the space of a week: once in Cornwall, presenting in a Nigerian national staying at a naval base, and then in Blackpool, in someone who had recently travelled to Nigeria.
It is usually a mild self-limiting illness and most people recover within a few weeks, PHE said. However severe illness can occur in some individuals.
Dr Michael Jacobs, clinical director of infection at the Royal Free Hospital, said in most cases it disappears on its own and patients have no long-term health effects. “Most people recover within several weeks,” he added.
Dr Phin said: “The overall risk to the general public is very low.”