Monkeypox: What we know so far after North East cases


A suspected case of monkeypox was recently detected in Middlesbrough. Here’s all we know so far.

It was included in official figures published by the UK Health Security Agency from the week ending Sunday, June 12.

What are local health representatives saying about it?

Both Middlesbrough Council, which employs the Middlesbrough and South Tees joint director of public health Mark Adams, and the Tees Valley Clinical Commissioning Group, which represents GP practices, both directed the Local Government Reporting Service to the UK Health Security Agency.

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A spokeswoman for the UK Health Security Agency, which has UK-wide responsibility for public health protection and infectious disease capability and which replaced Public Health England in October, said it would not comment on individual cases, but it would be providing further, updated figures next week.

How is the information on suspected cases of monkeypox collected and published?

Local health officials are obliged to notify cases of infectious diseases and these are collated by the UK Health Security Agency in the form of NOIDS (Notification of Infectious Diseases) weekly reports.

Monkeypox was only listed as a notifiable disease in law from June 8, meaning all doctors in England are required to notify their local council or local health protection team if they suspect a patient has monkeypox.

Laboratories must also notify the UK Health Security Agency if the monkeypox virus is identified in a laboratory sample.

Where else have suspected monkeypox cases been recently reported?

As well as Middlesbrough, Bromley, Croydon, Epping Forest, Hammersmith and Fulham, Reigate and Banstead, Sheffield, South Tyneside, Sutton, Thurrock, Wellingborough and Wigan.

What are the latest UK figures?

Total confirmed cases UK-wide stood at 524 on June 14, 504 in England, 13 in Scotland, five in Wales and two in Scotland.

Why is monkeypox causing concern?

The current outbreak is the first time that the virus has been passed from person to person in England where travel links to an endemic country, such as countries in west and central Africa, have not been identified.

But it isn’t particularly harmful, right?

Monkeypox is usually a mild self-limiting illness, spread by very close contact with someone with monkeypox and most people recover within a few weeks.

It causes rashes or lesions, which appear to be like spots, ulcers or blisters on parts of the body.

Early symptoms include fever, headache, muscle ache, backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion. The rash progresses until it forms a scab which falls off.

The risk to the UK population remains low, but people are asked to be aware of the symptoms. The majority of the cases identified to date have been among men who are gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men, so these people in particular need to be alert, particularly if they have recently had a new sexual partner.

What should people do if they suspect they have monkeypox?

You should call NHS 111 or a sexual health centre immediately if you have a rash with blisters.

Do not go to a sexual health clinic without contacting them first. Stay at home and avoid close contact with other people until you’ve been told what to do.

UK Health Security Agency health protection teams are contacting people considered to be high-risk contacts of confirmed cases and are advising those who have been risk assessed and remain well to isolate at home for up to 21 days.

Is anything being done to reduce the impact of the virus?

Last month the agency bought more 20,000 doses of a safe smallpox vaccine (the virus is closely related to smallpox and the smallpox vaccine is 85% effective in preventing monkeypox) called Imvanex and this is being offered to identified close contacts of those diagnosed with monkeypox to reduce the risk of symptomatic infection and severe illness.

Where can I get more information?

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