HSE establishes team to monitor monkeypox as virus cases more than double in UK 1 month ago

HSE establishes team to monitor monkeypox as virus cases more than double in UK

Several European countries have also reported cases of the virus.

The HSE has established a team to actively monitor the international situation around monkeypox.

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This is after being informed of a number of suspected and confirmed cases of the virus in the United Kingdom, several European countries and the USA.

On Friday (20 May), the UK Government said 11 additional cases of monkeypox had been detected in England, bringing the total number confirmed to 20.

This is as France and Germany have also reported their first cases of the virus.

There are no known monkeypox cases in Ireland at present.

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On Thursday, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) said the vast majority of cases of the virus it has been informed about internationally do not have a travel link to a country where monkeypox is endemic.

"Most of the recent cases that have been reported in the UK self-identify as gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men (gbMSM)," an HPSC statement reads.

"A multidisciplinary Incident Management Team has been established by the HSE to actively monitor this evolving international situation and prepare services in Ireland for the possibility of monkeypox cases arising in Ireland.

"HPSC will continue to closely monitor this situation and provide relevant updates to the public as appropriate."

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Monkeypox is a rare disease that occurs primarily in remote parts of Central and West Africa.

There are two types: West African monkeypox and Congo Basin monkeypox.

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The Congo Basin type is more severe, though only the milder West African type has been spread to countries outside of Africa.

The HPSC has said monkeypox is usually a self-limiting illness and that most people recover within weeks but that severe illness can occur in people with very weak immune systems and in very small babies.

However, it also added that severe illness and death outside Africa are "extremely unlikely".

"Most cases of monkeypox occur when people have very close contact with infected animals or from eating infected bushmeat," the HPSC stated.

"Infection can be spread from person-to-person through contact with bodily fluids and skin lesions of a monkeypox case.

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"Monkeypox is not very infectious – it takes close physical contact to spread between people. Contact with close family members or sexual contact poses the biggest risks of person-to-person spread.

"The risk of spread within the community, in general, is very low," the HPSC said, before adding that the most recent cases in gbMSM communities in the UK suggest there may be a higher risk in this group.

"As the virus spreads through close contact, the HSE is advising those who self-identify as gbMSM (especially if they have undertaken international travel in the past month), to be alert to any unusual rashes or vesicular lesions on any part of their (or their partner’s) body, especially their genitalia," it stated.

"If they do notice any such changes, they should contact their local STI Clinic or their General Practitioner (GP) for advice."

Initial symptoms of monkeypox virus infection include:

  • Fever (>38.50C)
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Backache
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Chills
  • Exhaustion

Another symptom of the virus listed by the HPSC is a rash that starts out on the face and spreads to the mouth.

This is as raised red spots quickly develop into little blisters typically within one to three days of fever onset.

Following sexual contact, the rash can also be found initially in the anogenital areas.

The rash goes through different stages before finally forming scabs which later fall off.

Further information on monkeypox infection can be found on the HPSC's website here.