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Will monkeypox cause a lockdown in UK? Could the virus follow similar path as Covid - and symptoms explained

The latest outbreak of monkeypox was first identified in the UK on 7 May

Monkeypox cases in the UK are continuing to climb, with close contacts advised to isolate for a period of three weeks.

But could the recent monkeypox outbreak follow a similar path as the Covid pandemic - and could it cause a lockdown?

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A rash then usually begins one to five days after the first symptoms appear

Here’s what you need to know.

Could monkeypox cause a lockdown?

Hussain Abdeh, clinical director and superintendent pharmacist at Medicine Direct, said monkeypox is “definitely not another Covid, so people needn’t fear us becoming locked down in our homes”.

He added: “Monkeypox is better understood than Covid was at the start of the pandemic.”

The latest outbreak of monkeypox was first identified in the UK on 7 May, with the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) guidance recommending on 23 May that people who have had “unprotected direct contact or high-risk environmental contact” should self-isolate for three weeks.

However, unlike the Covid lockdown and self-isolation requirement, the monkeypox isolation guidance is advisory and not mandatory.

Mr Abdeh said that although the number of cases is still quite small for the UK, the daily cases are “an unusual and unprecedented high for this country”.

“When a virus breaks out like this, it is always a cause for concern, although not for panic,” he said.

Monkeypox is typically found in parts of west or central Africa and cases are usually rare in the UK.

“Monkeypox is outside of its usual home while in the UK, meaning it requires prolonged close contact between humans to keep thriving. Consequently, outbreaks of monkeypox are normally short-lived,” Mr Abdeh added.

Martin Michaelis, professor of molecular medicine at the University of Kent, echoed this, as he said that if “nothing unforeseen happens”, then it “seems unlikely that monkeypox will cause an outbreak at the scale of Covid-19”.

The professor explained that monkeypox does not spread as easily as Covid, as you can easily be infected by a person with Covid if you are in the same room as them for a short while without direct contact.

However, people tend to need to be in much closer contact for monkeypox to be transmitted, with the virus spread by touching someone with the infection, using the same bedding or by them directly sneezing or coughing at you, noted Prof Michaelis.

The symptoms of monkeypox are also “much more obvious and unambiguous and cannot be easily confused with a common cold like Covid-19,” said Prof Michaelis.

He added: “Monkeypox is usually also only infectious in patients who display symptoms.

“Hence, there is not this level of asymptomatic spread by people who do not know that they are infectious, which we are used to from Covid-19.”

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.