Is Monkeypox deadly? Can virus identified in UK kill people, global death rate, and is it contagious

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Treatment for monkeypox aims to relieve symptoms

Up to 29 August 2022, there were 3,279 confirmed and 134 highly probable monkeypox cases in the UK. Of these, 85 were in Scotland, 27 were in Northern Ireland, 44 were in Wales and 3,257 were in England, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has said.

Monkeypox has also been listed as a notifiable disease in law since 8 June, which means all doctors in England are required to notify their local council or local Health Protection Team (HPT) if they suspect a patient has monkeypox.

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Laboratories must also notify the UKHSA if the monkeypox virus is identified in a laboratory sample.

But is monkeypox deadly and how contagious is it?

Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus
Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus

Here’s what you need to know.

What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus.

Most cases have been in Africa and the risk of catching monkeypox in the UK is very low, the NHS explains.

There have only been a very small number of cases of monkeypox in the UK and when there is a case, health professionals will aim to contact anyone who has been in close contact with the infected person.

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The NHS website says: “If you have not been contacted, be reassured you are extremely unlikely to catch monkeypox.”

How is it spread and how contagious is it?

Monkeypox does not spread easily between people, but it’s possible to catch it from:

  • touching items like clothing, bedding or towels used by an infected person
  • touching monkeypox spots or scabs
  • a person with a monkeypox rash who coughs or sneezes near you

How deadly is it?

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), up to a tenth of persons ill with monkeypox may die, with most deaths occurring in younger age groups.

Monkeypox is usually a mild illness that will get better on its own without treatment, but some people can develop more serious symptoms, so patients with monkeypox in the UK are cared for in specialist hospitals.

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Treatment for monkeypox aims to relieve symptoms, with most people recovering in two to four weeks.

Hussain Abdeh, superintendent pharmacist at Medicine Direct, said: “Monkeypox has been found to be fatal in up to one in 10 people who contract it in Africa.

“Studies have shown that the highest death rate is generally found in children.

“However, in the UK the illness is not normally serious. Most people who contract monkeypox will get better after between two and four weeks.

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“Nonetheless, sufferers will likely require treatment in a specialist hospital to stop the infection from spreading.”

What are the symptoms of monkeypox?

The illness begins with:

  • high temperature
  • headache
  • muscle aches
  • backache
  • swollen glands
  • chills
  • Exhaustion

A rash then usually begins one to five days after the first symptoms appear. The spots often start on the face before spreading to other parts of the body.

During the illness, the rash then changes from raised red bumps, to spots filled with fluid, with the spots eventually forming scabs which later fall off.

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