Teesside public health chief gives update as monkeypox cases continue to rise

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A NORTH EAST health chief has offered an update on monkeypox after more than 70 cases were confirmed in the UK.

National health bosses confirmed 77 cases of the disease had been logged in England as of Tuesday. And the illness got the attention of Stockton’s public health chief Sarah Bowman-Abouna at this week’s health and wellbeing board.

She told the panel how the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) wasn’t disclosing numbers by local authority yet. But it’s understood there has been at least one case recorded in the North East.

Read more: How North East drug smuggler was caught trying to get £160m of cocaine into the UK

The disease is usually rare and doesn’t spread easily between people – but it can spread from close direct contact with an infected animal, human or contaminated materials such as bedding.

The Northern Echo: Stockton's director of public health Sarah Bowman-Abouna. Picture: EVENING GAZETTE/TEESSIDE LIVE Stockton’s director of public health Sarah Bowman-Abouna. Picture: EVENING GAZETTE/TEESSIDE LIVE

Ms Bowman-Abouna explained the initial symptoms were fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion.

The panel heard how a rash – often beginning on the face or genital areas – is also common. The health chief added most confirmed cases are mild but there is a risk to younger children under 12, pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems.

The smallpox vaccine – a disease declared eradicated in 1980 – is the recommended vaccine for post-exposure prevention against monkeypox in the UK. Advice from the UKHSA was pointed to during the meeting.

Officials say if anyone suspects they might have rashes or lesions on any part of their body – particularly if they have recently had a new sexual partner – they should limit their contact with others and contact NHS 111, or their local sexual health service as soon as possible. People are, however, urged to phone ahead before attending in person.

The Northern Echo:

A notable proportion of the cases identified to date have been among people who are gay, bisexual, and men who have sex with men (MSM). Stockton’s panel heard the MSM community was being asked to be “particularly vigilant for symptoms or a rash as many cases in London were among that community.

The UKHSA says its health 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 three weeks.

In addition, the UKHSA has purchased supplies of a smallpox vaccine – Imvanex – and this is being offered to close contacts of those diagnosed with monkeypox in a bid to reduce the risk of symptomatic infection and severe illness.

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