Monkeypox Explained

You have probably heard the name ‘monkeypox’ mentioned on the news in recent months. Coming hot on the heels of Covid-19, it is especially unwelcome news. But what exactly is monkeypox and how concerned should you be?

Monkeypox is most commonly found in West and Central Africa and is considered to be a rare infection. While cases in the UK have been on the rise, the likelihood of you catching it remains low.

Let’s look at how you can catch the infection. If you live in West or Central Africa, you can catch it from infected rodents should you be bitten by them or touch any part of them or eat them without first cooking them thoroughly.

It can be transmitted from person to person if you come into direct contact with the blisters and scabs that result from monkeypox. If you touch anything used by an infected person, such as bedding or towels, you are also likelier to contract it yourself. An infected person may additionally pass it on to you if they sneeze or cough close to you.

In the UK, you are highly unlikely to contract monkeypox if you haven’t recently been to West or Central Africa or if you have not been in close contact with an infected person.

If, however, you do become infected with monkeypox, it can take anywhere between five and twenty-one days for the first symptoms to emerge. These include a high temperature, muscle aches, exhaustion, pains in your joints and swollen glands. These first symptoms will be followed around five days later by a rash that will begin on the face before spreading to other parts of the body. It is similar in appearance and touch to chickenpox.

These symptoms generally clear up within a few weeks. Until that time, you are advised to isolate yourself to prevent the spread of the infection to others.

By and large, monkeypox is a mild infection and can clear up without any treatment. Sometimes, your symptoms can become sufficiently severe to warrant hospital treatment. This is especially true for young children, older adults and those with a condition or medication that affects the immune system.

The monkeypox virus is similar to that which causes smallpox. Therefore, the MVA vaccine for smallpox can offer a good degree of protection against it. The NHS currently offers the MVA vaccine to people who are most likely to be exposed to the monkeypox virus and you will be contacted by them if you are deemed to be at risk.

There are steps you can take to reduce your risk of contracting monkeypox. First, regularly wash your hands with soap and water or use a sanitizer which contains alcohol.

Be aware of the symptoms of monkeypox if you lead a sexually active lifestyle and be sure that your partner does, especially if they are new. Do not have sex or any other intimate contact if you feel you are developing symptoms.


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