Three people in England have been diagnosed with monkeypox — here's what to know about the illness

CDC/Getty ImagesSymptoms of monkeypox on patients’ hands.
  • Three people in England have been diagnosed with monkeypox, health officials confirmed Wednesday.
  • Officials think the first two patients picked up monkeypox in Nigeria.
  • The third person to get the illness is a healthcare worker who treated one of the other two patients.
  • Monkeypox is a rare viral infection that doesn’t spread easily between people and usually clears up on its own in a few weeks, experts say.

A third case of the rare illness monkeypox has been diagnosed in England. Officials at Public Health England (PHE) announced the case in a statement on Wednesday, Reuters reported.

Earlier this month, two other individuals were diagnosed with monkeypox, though the cases weren’t linked within the UK, according to PHE. The first was a resident of Nigeria. Officials believe this person contracted monkeypox there before travelling to the UK. The second patient also appears to have picked up the infection in Nigeria after travelling there.

“We know that in September 2017 Nigeria experienced a large sustained outbreak of monkeypox and since then sporadic cases have continued to be reported,” Dr. Nick Phin, deputy director of PHE’s National Infection Service, said in a statement on September 11, when the second case was announced. “It is likely that monkeypox continues to circulate in Nigeria and could, therefore, affect travellers who are returning from this part of the world.”

But the third person to contract the infection isn’t a traveller:It’s a healthcare worker. The worker was involved in the care of the second patient before that person was diagnosed with monkeypox, according to PHE.

“This person has been isolated and we are taking a highly precautionary approach to ensure that all contacts are traced,” Phin said in the PHE’s latest statement.

Here’s what to know about the illness.

Monkeypox is rare and is primarily passed from animals to humans

Monkeypox symptomsCDC/Getty ImagesThis graphic from the CDC shows a closeup of skin symptoms caused by monkeypox.

Monkeypox is a rare viral illness that occurs mainly in parts of central and West Africa, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). It’s spread primarily from animals to people and has “limited” spread between humans, the WHO explains.

The US experienced an outbreak of monkeypox in 2003 with a total of 37 confirmed cases, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Investigators eventually traced the outbreak back to a shipment of animals from Ghana. It was the first time human monkeypox had ever been reported outside of Africa.

The initial case reported by PHE was also the first ever diagnosed in the UK.

It can be serious, but most cases are mild and improve on their own

Symptoms of monkeypox include fever, headache, swollen lymph nodes, back pain, aching muscles, and lack of energy, followed by a rash that often begins on the face and spreads to other parts of the body, according to the WHO. The rash evolves to form small, fluid-filled blisters, or lesions, that eventually crust over.

There are no treatments or vaccines, but most cases go away on their own.

Monkeypox is, in most cases, a mild condition which will resolve on its own and have no long-term effects on a person’s health,” Dr. Michael Jacobs, clinical director of infection at the Royal Free Hospital, said in a PHE statement. “Most people recover within several weeks.”

In some cases, particularly among young children, the infection can be serious or even fatal, according to the WHO. (In previous outbreaks, the fatality rate has been between 1 and 10%, the organisation adds.) But English health officials stressed that the three new cases in the UK don’t pose a dire threat.

“It is important to emphasise that monkeypox does not spread easily between people and the overall risk to the general public is very low,” Phin said in a PHE statement.

Read more about monkeypox at the WHO website.


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