Monkeypox: How do you catch it, what are the symptoms, how easily does it spread and what has been our response in Ireland to date?

What are the Symptoms

The initial symptoms include a high temperature, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen glands, shivering and exhaustion. A rash will usually appear after a few days, beginning on the face and then spreading to other parts of the body.

How do you Get MonkeyPox

According to the NHS, you can catch monkeypox if you are bitten by an infected animal or if you touch its blood, body fluids, spots, blisters or scabs.

Catching it from an infected person is very uncommon, but transmission is possible through close physical contact including sexual intercourse, touching clothing, bedding, towels or other items used by someone with the rash.

Contact with their blisters or scabs or exposure to their coughs or sneezes could also put you at risk.

Health experts have said the infection can also be caught by eating meat from an infected animal that has not been cooked properly.

It is also possible to catch monkeypox by touching other products such as skin or fur which came from an infected animal.

The rare infection is mostly spread by rodents, such as rats, mice and squirrels, in parts of west or central Africa.

If people travel to destinations in those regions, they are advised to regularly wash their hands or use hand sanitisers and only eat meat which has been cooked thoroughly.

To further minimise infection, people should not go near wild or stray animals, including those that are dead or appear to be unwell.

Irish Response

Incident management teams have been set up in Ireland (North and South) in order to prepare for possible outbreaks of Monkeypox.

Republic of Ireland

Dr Derval Igoe (Chair of new Incident Management Team), said expert groups were working on ways to monitor the disease and surveillance was taking place all over the world.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme, Dr Igoe added that “there have been no deaths and there have only been two hospitalisations worldwide due to an illness”.

“We do have a lot of a lot of different professional groups working on this,” she said. “We have our sexual health and infectious disease experts in the hospitals, also our national isolation unit, the virus reference lab, national immunisation office and the Department of Health.”

Dr Igoe’s team is also working with the Gay Health Network to make sure messages are delivered in a “suitable way” to populations which cases of the virus are being seen in.

She also advised anyone with symptoms to isolate and for anyone with concerns to contact their GP or sexual health clinic. Dr Igoe is the interim director of the Republic of Ireland’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre.

Northern Ireland

The Public Health Agency (PHA) of Northern Ireland said it wanted to “ensure that we are fully prepared for any potential risk to the population”.

Monkeypox is a viral infection that can cause mild flu-like symptoms including fever, headaches

swellings, back pain, aching muscles and a rash.

The UK has so far confirmed 20 cases but none of them are in Northern Ireland. The Republic has no reported cases to date.

‘Low risk’

“Monkeypox is usually a mild self-limiting illness and most people recover within a few weeks, said the PHA’s head of Health Protection, Dr Gillian Armstrong.

“The infection can be passed on through close contact with someone with the infection, or contact with clothing or linens used by a person who has monkeypox.

“However, the virus does not usually spread easily between people and the risk to the Northern Ireland population is considered low.”

The PHA advised anyone who thinks they have been exposed to Monkeypox, or who has “unusual rashes or lesions on any part of their body, especially their genitalia” to phone their local healthcare provider or genitourinary medicine  (GUM) clinic.

On Monday, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said people should isolate for 21 days if they have been in direct or household contact with a confirmed case.

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