Monkeypox virus: symptoms to look for and how to stay safe

Published: 27 May 2022

monkeypox what to look for art from UKHSA

There are monkeypox virus symptoms we can look out for

Cases of monkeypox have recently been confirmed in England. Numbers remain small but there are precautions we can take to avoid spreading or catching the monkeypox virus. There are also symptoms we can look out for.

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 spread when someone comes into 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. If you get infected with monkeypox, it usually takes between 5 and 21 days for the first symptoms to appear.

The first symptoms of monkeypox include:

  • a high temperature
  • a headache
  • muscle aches
  • backache
  • swollen glands
  • shivering (chills)
  • 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 symptoms usually clear up in 2 to 4 weeks.

The virus can spread if there is close contact between people through:

  • touching 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

Robyn Dewis, Director for Public Health has said:

Whilst the monkeypox virus does not usually cause a serious illness and the numbers of cases remain small, they are increasing. It is important we do what we can to make sure the virus is contained as much as possible. Anyone can catch or pass on monkeypox and we should avoid close contact with anyone who has symptoms.

If you believe that you may have monkeypox symptoms, however mild, contact NHS 111 or call a sexual health clinic immediately. Avoid personal or sexual contact with others until you have had a clinical assessment".

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

UKHSA will post regular monkeypox updates on GOV.UK.

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