Two cases of monkeypox have been detected in north Wales in the UK. The risk to the wider population is said to be "very low," but it’s not the first time this unusual virus has been reported in the UK in recent years.
A statement issued by Public Health Wales (PHW), seen by various media outlets, said "two cases of imported monkeypox" have been confirmed. The infection was initially caught overseas and both patients are members of the same household. The two patients were admitted to a hospital across the border in England, with one since released.
"Confirmed cases of monkeypox are a rare event in the UK, and the risk to the general public is very low," Richard Firth, PHW's consultant in health protection, said in a statement, per the BBC.
"We have worked with multi-agency colleagues, following tried and tested protocols and procedures, and identified all close contacts. Actions have been put in place to minimise the likelihood of further infection."
UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock later confirmed the UK is dealing with an outbreak of monkeypox when he gave evidence at the Health and Social Care Committee and Science and Technology Committee on Thursday.
Monkeypox is a rare infection primarily reported in Central and West Africa. As the name suggests, monkeypox is similar to smallpox, although it is often milder, and was first discovered in crab-eating macaque monkeys. It’s mostly transmitted to people from wild animals, such as rodents and primates, but human-to-human transmission also occurs. The virus is typically transmitted from one person to another by contact with lesions, body fluids, respiratory droplets, and contaminated materials.
While typically most patients suffer from a mild illness and recover relatively quickly, the disease can be fatal, especially for younger people, and some people can develop more serious symptoms. Initial symptoms usually include a fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, swollen glands, and tiredness. One to five days after symptoms emerge, the illness progresses to cause a rash that often starts on the face before spreading to the rest of the body. The rash eventually turns from raised red bumps to spots filled with fluid.
This is not the UK’s first monkeypox case to be reported in the last few years. In September 2018, there were two cases of monkeypox reported in the UK, and another case popped up in December 2019. It’s thought all of these cases were brought into the UK from Central and West African countries.