Monkeypox: what is it and how do you catch it?

It takes between five and 21 days for initial symptoms to appear

Monkeypox patients are being treated at St Thomas' Hospital in London. Getty
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Four more cases of monkeypox have been confirmed in the UK, bringing the number of people in the country known to have the disease to seven.

The cases are being treated at St Thomas’ Hospital in London and so far common contacts have only been identified between two of the four patients.

Monkeypox is a rare infection usually spread by wild animals in central or west Africa. The chances of contracting it in the UK are minimal and it rarely spreads between people, although it is possible.

How do you catch monkeypox?

It can be caught from infected wild animals, particularly rodents such as rats, mice and squirrels.

You can be infected by an animal bite or if you come into contact with an animal’s blood or bodily fluids.

It may be possible to catch monkeypox by eating meat from an infected animal that has not been properly cooked.

Human-to-human transmission can occur through touching the towels or bedding of a patient, touching monkeypox blisters or via coughs and sneezes.

What are the symptoms?

It takes between five and 21 days for initial symptoms to appear.

These include:

  • high temperature
  • headache
  • muscle ache
  • backache
  • swollen glands
  • shivering and chills
  • exhaustion

The monkeypox rash is a secondary symptom, usually starting on the face and spreading to other parts of the body.

Symptoms usually clear up in two to four weeks.

How to avoid catching monkeypox

It is rare to contract the disease outside parts of Africa.

Do

  • wash your hands with soap and water regularly or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser
  • ensure meat you are eating has been cooked thoroughly

Do Not

  • go near wild or stray animals, including carcasses
  • approach any animals that appear ill
  • eat or touch meat from wild animals
  • share bedding or towels with people who are unwell and may have monkeypox
  • have close contact with people who are unwell and may have monkeypox

Only a few people have been diagnosed with monkeypox in the UK. These people had all travelled to west Africa or were close contacts of someone who had travelled to that region.

Health professionals in the UK will contact people who have been in close contact with monkeypox patients.

Updated: May 17, 2022, 10:39 AM