The smallpox vaccine may be used to immunize those at risk – it is 85 percent effective, BBC News reports – but there are currently no treatments available for those who have already contracted the virus. Instead, they are advised to seek hospital attention in order to minimize the spread of the disease.
In most cases, monkeypox is a mild sickness. However, there is a risk of death and somewhere between 1 and 10 percent of patients do die as a result, particularly if they are young. Children are the most at risk.
Fortunately, the virus has a really terrible infection rate and has particular difficulty spreading between people. That's not to say that it's not possible – it can be passed from person to person via bodily fluids and airborne droplets (if you get very, very close). These droplets rarely travel further than a meter (3.3 feet).
Of course, any disease that passes from animal to human has the potential to cause a pandemic (see bird flu and swine flu as examples), particularly if it finds a way to be more deadly, more spreadable, or both.
Fortunately, the cases in the UK seem to be contained, though health officials are keeping a close eye on any friends, family, and medical professionals that the three patients have come into contact with in the last few weeks. Some staff at the hospital have also been offered the smallpox vaccine to minimize the spread of the virus.