The U.K. health authorities have confirmed a case of monkeypox, which is a virus passed from infected animals such as rodents to humans, in someone with a recent travel history to Nigeria where they are believed to have caught it.
The U.K. Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said monkeypox is a rare viral infection that does not spread easily between people and is usually a mild “self-limiting illness” and most people recover within a few weeks. However, severe illness can occur in some cases.
“It is important to emphasise that monkeypox does not spread easily between people and the overall risk to the general public is very low,” Dr. Colin Brown, Director of Clinical and Emerging Infections at the UKHSA, said on Saturday.
“We are working with NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSEI) to contact the individuals who have had close contact with the case prior to confirmation of their infection, to assess them as necessary and provide advice. UKHSA and the NHS have well established and robust infection control procedures for dealing with cases of imported infectious disease and these will be strictly followed,” he said.
The patient is being treated in a specialist isolation unit at St. Thomas Hospital by expert clinical staff with strict infection prevention procedures, added Dr. Nicholas Price, Consultant in Infectious Diseases at Guy’s and St. Thomas’ Hospital.
As a precautionary measure, UKHSA experts said they are working closely with England’s state-funded National Health Service (NHS) and will be contacting people who might have been in close contact with the individual to provide information and health advice.
This includes contacting a number of passengers who travelled in close proximity to the patient on the same flight to the U.K.
Initial symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen lymph nodes, 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 before finally forming a scab, which later falls off.
It can be spread when someone is in close contact with an infected person. The virus can enter the body through broken skin, the respiratory tract or through the eyes, nose or mouth.
The NHS said the infection could be caught from infected wild animals in parts of west and central Africa and was believed to be spread by rodents.
The UKHSA said people without symptoms are not considered infectious but, as a precaution, those who have been in close proximity of the infected passenger are being contacted to ensure that if they do become unwell they can be treated quickly.
The first-ever recorded occurrence of the monkeypox virus in the U.K. was in 2018, and since then a handful of cases have been confirmed by health authorities.