13 Sep 2018

Monkeypox cases in UK (ex Nigeria)

Two cases of monkeypox have been diagnosed in England Monkeypox cases in UK (ex Nigeria)

Public Health England has confirmed that two cases of monkeypox have been diagnosed in England; the first in a resident of Nigeria visiting the UK, and the second in a UK resident who had recently visited Nigeria [1]. 

Monkeypox is a rare viral infection which can be transmitted via respiratory droplets, through infected body fluids, or from an infected animal (rodents are thought to be the main reservoir of infection in animals). The incubation period is between 5-21 days [2]. The disease does not spread easily between people and is usually mild and self-limiting, with recovery within 2-4 weeks. Occasionally severe illness occurs [1]. Monkeypox occurs mainly in central and west African countries; during 2018 monkeypox cases have been reported from Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia and Nigeria [2].

Further information on these cases and the disease is available from Public Health England [1].

Advice for travellers

Cases of monkeypox in travellers are very unusual. Monkeypox does not easily spread from person to person, however, the following preventative measures should be taken if you are visiting an area where monkeypox is known or presumed to occur:

  • Practice good hand hygiene always, but particularly if in contact with an infected animal or person; use a hand sanitizer and wash your hands with soap and water
  • Avoid contact with rodents or other animals that could carry the virus (alive or dead)
  • Do not prepare or eat bush meat
  • Avoid close exposure to coughs or sneezes of with anyone with a monkeypox rash
  • Avoid direct contact with monkeypox skin lesions or scabs (if you have any areas of broken skin, ensure these are covered)
  • Avoid contact with materials that have been in contact with an infected animal or person (e.g. clothing, bedding, towels) [3]

If you have recently visited an area where monkeypox is known or presumed to occur and become unwell with symptoms such as fever or flu like illness with swollen glands you are advised to seek advice from your GP or NHS111. Remember to tell your healthcare provider that you have travelled abroad.

Advice for health professionals

Although monkeypox is very rare in travellers, health care providers in the UK are reminded to consider monkeypox infection in those presenting with symptoms who have travelled to areas where the virus is known or presumed to occur.

Specialist guidance from Public Health England should be followed. Discussion with the local microbiology, virology or infectious disease consultant is recommended. Hospital health professionals can contact the Imported Fever Service (IFS) for advice about unwell returned travellers.

For specific outbreak information, check our Outbreak Surveillance.

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