Health services in Ireland are preparing for the possible arrival of the monkeypox virus in Ireland.
To date, no known case has been detected here, but the HSE has set up a multidisciplinary incident team.
It follows the biggest outbreak ever with seven known cases in the UK. The disease has also occurred in Portugal.
What do we know about the virus and how concerned should we be? Here are some key questions answered:
What is the monkeypox virus?
The Health Protection Surveillance Center (HPSC) said monkeypox is a rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus.
It is mainly found in remote parts of Central and West Africa.
There are two types of monkeypox: West African monkeypox and Congo Basin monkeypox.
It indicates that the Congo Basin type is heavier, but only the milder West African type has spread to countries outside Africa.
“Most cases of monkeypox occur when people have very close contact with infected animals or eat infected bushmeat,” the HPSC said.
“Infection can be transmitted from person to person through contact with bodily fluids and skin lesions from a case of monkeypox.
“Monkeypox is not very contagious – it takes close physical contact to spread between people.
“Contact with close family members or sexual contact carry the greatest risks of human-to-human transmission. The risk of spread within the community is generally very low,” added Ireland’s disease watchdog.
The virus was first discovered in the 1950s and first identified in humans in the 1970s.
How many cases have been detected in the UK and Portugal so far?
About seven cases are known in the UK.
Britain’s Health Security Agency said a group of four cases unrelated to the other three cases had been reported in England.
Six of these are in London and one in the North East, with patients either self-isolating at home or being treated in specialist infectious disease wards.
Previous cases in the UK have been linked to travel to other parts of the world where it is more common, particularly West Africa.
However, there is now evidence the virus is spreading in the community as none of the four recent patients have been linked to the other cases. They hadn’t traveled recently either.
The first British case was identified in London on May 7 in a patient who had recently returned from Nigeria.
Health authorities don’t know how the last four patients contracted the virus but are investigating whether it can be transmitted through sexual intercourse, which has never been described for this pathogen before.
All four of the most recent cases in the UK have been males in the LGBTQ+ community and health officials are now urging this group to be particularly vigilant for “unusual rashes or lesions on any part of their body, particularly their genitals, and to contact a sex health service if they.” have concerns”.
On May 18, the Directorate-General for Health in Portugal reported five confirmed cases and more than 20 suspected cases of monkeypox in Portugal that month.
All suspected and confirmed cases are reported in men in the Lisbon region and the Tagus Valley.
How is it spread?
Unlike Covid-19, it does not spread easily among the population. Close contact is required. Person-to-person transmission involves large exhaled droplets and skin-to-skin contact with open wounds.
It can also be caught by eating or touching infected animals.
It has recently emerged that it is possible for the virus to also be transmitted during sexual activity and this has not been noticed before.
How would I know I had monkeypox?
Initial symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, back pain, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion.
It also causes a distinctive rash that often begins on the face before spreading throughout the body, including the genitals.
The rash changes and goes through different stages and can look like chickenpox or syphilis before eventually forming a scab that later falls off.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says symptoms can be mild or severe, and lesions can be very itchy or painful.
According to the HPSC, a rash — which starts on the face and spreads to the mouth, develops as raised red spots that quickly develop into small blisters — typically within one to three days of the onset of the fever.
After sexual contact, the rash can also initially be found in the anogenital area.
The rash goes through various stages before eventually forming crusts that later fall off.
How dangerous is it?
According to the HPSC, monkeypox infection is usually a self-limiting illness and most people recover within weeks, although serious illness can occur in people with very weak immune systems and in very young babies.
“There is no drug that can cure monkeypox. Treatment for monkeypox is primarily supportive,” it said.
“This includes treating any uncomfortable symptoms that arise, such as pain or itching, keeping the patient warm, comfortable and relaxed, and making sure they are getting plenty of fluids. This allows the patient’s own body defenses to fight the infection.”
Why are you worried about gay and bisexual men?
Although the risk of spread in the wider community is low, recent cases among gay and bisexual communities in the UK suggest there may be a higher risk in this group, the HPSC said.
“As the virus spreads through close contact, the HSE advises those who identify themselves as gbMSM (gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men) – particularly if they have traveled to London and the UK or Portugal in the past month – look out for any unusual skin rashes or blister-like lesions on any part of her (or her partner’s) body, especially her genitals.
“If they notice any changes like this, they should contact their GP or local STI clinic for advice. A list of public STI services is available on the HSE Sexual Wellbeing website.”
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/health/monkeypox-virus-is-spreading-abroad-how-concerned-should-we-be-41666411.html Monkeypox Virus Spreads Abroad – How Concerned Should We Be?