About monkeypox and how people get it
Monkeypox is a rare infection though recently there has been an increase in cases in the UK, including in Greater Manchester. It can be passed on from person to person through close physical skin-to-skin contact, including during sex. It can also be passed on from bedding, towels and clothes. Although the number of people with the virus remains low, a vaccine is now being offered to groups most at risk to help reduce the spread of infection.
Signs and symptoms of monkeypox
Anyone can get monkeypox, though currently most cases have been in men who are gay, bisexual or men who have sex with other men. The risk of getting monkeypox remains low for most people. While the infection is mild for many, it can cause severe symptoms for others. Symptoms can include unusual rashes or blisters on the body, including mouth, genitals and anus, a high temperature, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen glands, shivering (chills), exhaustion, proctitis (anal or rectal pain).
How do people get tested for monkeypox?
People with suspected monkeypox are asked to call their local sexual health clinic (or GP if the suspected case is a child), who can arrange assessment, advice and testing as appropriate. People who cannot contact a sexual health clinic or GP should call 111.
Monkeypox is usually diagnosed by taking a swab taken from one or more monkeypox blisters or ulcers. A throat swab can be used for high-risk contacts of a confirmed or highly probable case who have developed symptoms of monkeypox, but no rash.
Vaccination to protect against monkeypox
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) currently recommends that the vaccination is offered to gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men at highest risk of exposure, people who have already had close contact with a monkeypox patient, and healthcare workers caring for and due to start caring for a patient with the virus.
Vaccinations in Greater Manchester are being offered at sexual health clinics and hospitals to people considered at high risk of getting monkeypox. People who are known to sexual health services are being invited to attend an appointment to receive a vaccine. All those identified as being eligible for a vaccination are being invited by text message or phone call to book an appointment, or to attend an invite-only walk-in clinic. The clinics are being held at a range of venues, dates, and times to maximise accessibility and encourage uptake.
Support and helpline
There is a monkeypox public helpline, run by the UKHSA. For information and advice please call 0333 242 3672. The line is open on Monday to Friday between 8am – 6pm and on Saturdays and Sundays between 9am -1pm.
More information and support can be found on the links below:
- Advice on symptoms: Monkeypox – NHS (www.nhs.uk)
- Latest updates from the UK Health Security Agency: Monkeypox cases confirmed in England – latest updates – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
- Information and support from the LGBT Foundation: LGBT Foundation – Monkeypox Advice
Jane Pilkington, director of population health for NHS Greater Manchester Integrated Care said:
“Whilst the risk of monkeypox remains low, we are encouraging people to familiarise themselves with symptoms. If you develop symptoms, phone NHS 111 or your usual sexual health clinic (do not visit without calling first) and take a break from close physical contact until you’ve sought medical advice and know you are well. Help others avoid monkeypox by isolating if you’re asked to do so by a healthcare professional.
“In line with national guidance, we are vaccinating people most at risk of infection. We are asking people to wait to be contacted and to come forward at the earliest opportunity possible when invited to get vaccinated. As more vaccines become available, it’s likely people outside this initial group will be considered.
“We are grateful to partners across the health and care system, and within the voluntary sector for their support. We are working together to share targeted health and safety information ahead of Pride; and would encourage people to be aware of the symptoms of monkeypox and stay at home if you feel at all unwell.”