Cases of monkeypox have been confirmed in Wales and Northern Ireland, public health officials have announced, as experts stress the risk to the general public remains low.
Public Health Wales, which has confirmed one case, urged people to be aware of the symptoms of the virus, adding that it was important for gay and bisexual men to be vigilant. A significant proportion of newly diagnosed cases of monkeypox in England have been detected among people who identify as gay or bisexual and among men who have sex with men.
Public Health Wales Director of Health Protection Dr Giri Shankar said: “We are working with the UK Health Safety Agency (UKHSA), Public Health Scotland and the Public Health Agency of Northern Ireland. North, and we are ready to respond to cases of monkeypox in Wales.
“The case is handled appropriately. To protect patient confidentiality, no further patient details will be disclosed.
He added: ‘We reassure people that monkeypox does not usually spread easily between people and the overall risk to the general public is low. It is usually a mild, self-limiting illness, and most people recover within a few weeks. However, serious illness can occur in some people.
A case of monkeypox was also confirmed in Northern Ireland on Thursday.
“This was not unexpected following the presence of monkeypox cases elsewhere in the UK,” the Northern Ireland Public Health Agency (PHA) said in a statement.
On Wednesday, the UKHSA announced that seven more cases of monkeypox had been confirmed in England, bringing the total to 77. One case has also been identified so far in Scotland.
The UKHSA has revealed that a vaccine for smallpox – a related but more serious disease that has been eradicated globally – is being offered to close contacts of people diagnosed with monkeypox to reduce the risk symptomatic infection and severe illness.
“Previous data from Africa suggests that previous smallpox vaccines may be up to 85% effective in preventing infection with monkeypox,” a paper released by the agency reveals.
The increasing number of monkeypox cases in several countries around the world is unusual: while cases have appeared in countries such as the UK in the past, they have generally been in people who have returned from central or west African countries, where the virus is endemic.
Among the hypotheses experts are exploring to explain the outbreak is that the virus may have been circulating at low levels in the UK for several years before taking off.
Experts also noted that the outbreak may have been made more likely given that most countries ended their smallpox vaccination programs in the 1970s, and the vaccine also offers protection against monkeypox. .