Heard about monkeypox?

You may have heard about monkeypox in the news recently. But what is it, what are the symptoms and how can you access help and information?

Monkeypox is a rare illness caused by the monkeypox virus and one of the symptoms is a rash that is sometimes confused with chickenpox. It is usually associated with travel to Central or West Africa but cases have been occurring in England with no travel links.

Monkeypox can be passed on when someone comes into close physical contact with someone with monkeypox. The virus can enter the body through broken skin, the respiratory tract or through the eyes, nose or mouth.

If you test positive for monkeypox, it usually takes between five and 21 days for the first symptoms to appear. Symptoms include recent unexpected/unusual spots, ulcers or blisters anywhere on your body, fever, headaches, muscle aches, swollen glands, chills and exhaustion.

A rash can develop, often beginning on the face, then spreading to other parts of the body. The rash changes and goes through different stages – a bit like chicken pox – before finally forming a scab, which later falls off.

The virus can Be passed on if there is close physical contact between people through:

  • Kissing, skin-to-skin contact or having sex with someone with the monkeypox rash·        
  • Touching or sharing things like clothing, bedding or towels used by someone with the monkeypox rash
  • Touching monkeypox skin blisters or scabs
  • The coughs or sneezes of a person with the monkeypox rash

Anyone with concerns that they could have monkeypox should call NHS 111 or contact a sexual health clinic. Please make sure you contact the clinic ahead of a visit.

UKHSA is investigating the recent cases in England. A notable proportion of early cases detected have been in in gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men. UKHSA is urging this group in particular to be alert to any unusual rashes or lesions and to contact a sexual health service without delay.

UKHSA will post regular updates on gov.uk. A UKHSA blog has also been published.