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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More than 2,000 cases of monkeypox have been confirmed in the UK to date, latest government figures show.

As of July 20, there were 2,162 laboratory confirmed cases, 54 were in Scotland, 14 in Northern Ireland, 24 in Wales and 2,070 were in England. Only 13 are women, the majority are men.

The median age of confirmed cases in the UK was 37-years-old.

In England, a high proportion of cases (74%) were known to be London residents but the number of cases in other regions has been steadily increasing, particularly in the south east of England.

Almost a third of people who have contracted it in the UK had recently returned from abroad.

More than 250 people reported they had attended concerts in London, Gran Canaria, Belgium and Israel.

How do you catch monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a rare infection usually spread by wild animals in central or west Africa.

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.

Although more people have been diagnosed with it recently, only a small number of people in the UK have had monkeypox and the risk remains low, the NHS says.

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.


  • 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
Updated: June 21, 2023, 8:58 AM