A case of monkeypox has been reported in England, according to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).
Monkeypox is a rare viral infection with symptoms similar to those seen in smallpox patients, such as fever, rash, and swollen lymph nodes. While typically most patients suffer from a mild illness and recover relatively quickly, the disease can be fatal, especially for younger people, and some people can develop more serious symptoms.
The UKHSA stressed that the infection tends to usually involve a “mild self-limiting illness” that rarely spreads to other people. As such, they say the overall risk to the general public is “very low.”
“It is important to emphasize 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 in a statement.
Despite this low risk, the UK is taking extra precautions and treating this patient at a specialist isolation unit at St Thomas’ Hospital in London.
“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,” added Dr Brown.
The patient had recently traveled from Nigeria, where the virus is naturally found in animals, before traveling to the UK. While the natural reservoir of monkeypox has not yet been identified, humans generally pick up the infection through contact with rodents or monkeys.
Since being discovered in 1970, human cases of monkeypox have been reported from 11 African countries: Benin, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Nigeria, the Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone, and South Sudan.
There have been numerous incidents where a case of the disease has been exported outside of Africa. Just last year, two cases of monkeypox were reported in two members of the same household in England. Cases of the infection also popped up in the UK in September 2018 and December 2019.
Once again, all of these infections were initially caught overseas before being imported to the UK and the outbreaks were successfully contained.