NHS hospital confirms patient has monkeypox after catching the killer virus while visiting Nigeria
- Monkeypox is a rare illness in people but can kill up to one in 10 people it infects
- The virus appeared in the UK for the first time last year, when three people got it
- The patient announced today became ill while in the South West of England
A person in South West England has been diagnosed with monkeypox, Public Health England has revealed.
The rare tropical disease, which causes flu-like symptoms and spots on the skin, is caused by a virus spread by monkeys, rats, squirrels and other small mammals.
The patient, who is now being cared for by specialists at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital Trust in central London, was taken ill after returning from a visit to Nigeria.
Officials have not identified the patient, nor revealed their age or sex.
Monkeypox appeared in the UK for the first time last year when three people contracted the infection in separate instances in Cornwall, Blackpool and Liverpool.
The patient is being looked after by specialist doctors at St Thomas’s Hospital in central London after being moved there from the south-west of England, where they were staying when they became ill
Dr Meera Chand, consultant microbiologist at Public Health England, said: ‘Monkeypox does not spread easily between people and the overall risk to the general public is very low.
‘We are following up with those who have had close contact with the patient to offer advice and to monitor them as necessary.
‘PHE and the NHS have well established and robust infection control procedures for dealing with cases of imported infectious disease and these will be strictly followed to minimise the risk of transmission.’
The government health agency said it would track down any at-risk people who were close to the patient on their flight home from Africa.
Although monkeypox infections are rare, they kill up to 10 per cent of patients, according to the World Health Organzation.
Symptoms usually appear within five to 21 days of coming into contact with the virus, and may include fever, rashes, head and muscle aches, and exhaustion.
People usually only have a mild illness and recover within a few weeks but some can become more seriously ill and even die.
A spokesperson for Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust said: ‘We can confirm that a patient with monkeypox is being treated at our high consequence infectious diseases centre at St Thomas’ Hospital.
‘We have specialist teams who are experienced in dealing with infectious diseases and thorough infection prevention procedures to protect staff and patients.’
Last year the illness appeared in two patients who had travelled to Africa, and a third who was a healthcare worker looking after one of the original two.
WHAT IS MONKEYPOX?
Monkeypox – often caught through handling monkeys – is a rare viral disease that kills around 10 per cent of people it strikes, according to figures.
The virus responsible for the disease is found mainly in the tropical areas of west and central Africa.
Monkeypox was first discovered in 1958, with the first reported human case in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1970. Human cases were recorded for the first time in the US in 2003 and the UK in September 2018.
It resides in wild animals but humans can catch it through direct contact with animals, such as handling monkeys, or eating inadequately cooked meat.
The virus can enter the body through broken skin, the respiratory tract, or the eyes, nose or mouth.
It can pass between humans via droplets in the air, and by touching the skin of an infected individual, or touching objects contaminated by them.
Symptoms usually appear within five and 21 days of infection. These include a fever, headache, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills and fatigue.
The most obvious symptom is a rash, which usually appears on the face before spreading to other parts of the body. This then forms skin lesions that scab and fall off.
Monkeypox is usually mild, with most patients recovering within a few weeks without treatment. Yet, the disease can often prove fatal.
There are no specific treatments or vaccines available for monkeypox infection, according to the World Health Organization.
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