Monkeypox

The risk of monkeypox is very low to the UK public. Very few people get monkeypox and it is not easy to catch.

Monkeypox is a rare disease that is caused by the monkeypox virus. Monkeypox is most commonly seen in central and west Africa but there has been a recent increase in cases in the UK as well as other parts of the world where it has not been seen before.

Monkeypox usually causes a mild illness that resolves without treatment and most people recover within a few weeks. However, it is possible that young children, pregnant women and immunocompromised people are more at risk of becoming seriously unwell than others.

Monkeypox can spread between people if there is close physical contact but it does not spread easily.

How the infection spreads 

Infection mainly spreads between people through very close physical contact. This is mainly physical skin-to-skin contact, which includes kissing or sexual contact.

Infection can also be spread via objects such as clothing, towels and bedding when shared with someone who has monkeypox. The chances of catching the infection from someone with monkeypox increases when that person has monkeypox symptoms.

Symptoms

Monkeypox infection usually starts with symptoms such as fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, chills or exhaustion. It typically takes 5-12 days for symptoms to begin after being infected by the virus.

These symptoms are followed by a rash a few days later. The rash typically starts on the skin that was in contact with the infected person (e.g. face or hands). The rash will then spread to the rest of the body.

The rash starts as raised spots, which turn into small blisters filled with fluid (lesions). These blisters eventually form scabs which later fall off.

A person with monkeypox is considered infectious from when their symptoms start, until their lesions have scabbed over, all the scabs have fallen off and a fresh layer of skin has formed. This can take several weeks.

If you think you have monkeypox symptoms you should avoid close physical contact with others until you confirm that you do not have monkeypox.

Close contacts of people who are confirmed to have monkeypox will be contacted by health services and provided with information and guidance.

If you have symptoms

Anyone can catch monkeypox. Most current cases in the UK have been men who are gay, bisexual or have sex with men. Therefore, people in this group are recommended to be particularly aware of the symptoms.

If you think you have monkeypox symptoms (even if not severe) you should immediately contact NHS 111 or your local sexual health clinic.

Your call or discussion will be treated sensitively and confidentially.

You can find your local free sexual health clinic online or by calling Barts NHS Sexual Health Services at 0207 377 7307.

Please contact clinics ahead of your visit and avoid close physical contact with others until you have been seen by a clinician.

You should mention that you think you may have monkeypox or been in close contact with someone who has monkeypox, or have been to west or central Africa in the past 3 weeks when you contact them.

If you're not able to contact a sexual health clinic, stay at home and call 111 for advice.

If you have an unexplained rash, please contact NHS 111 or phone your local GP to make an appointment.

Close contacts of people who are confirmed to have monkeypox will be contacted by health services and provided with information and guidance.