Let’s Talk About… Monkeypox

What is Monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a viral infection. It can lead to an illness that ranges from mild to severe and can last a number of weeks. Up until recently, it was only seen in countries where the virus is endemic (very common) and sometimes in people who return home from those countries.

 

However, this current outbreak in non-endemic countries is primarily seeing the virus spreading among sexual networks of gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (gbMSM) through close contact with someone that has monkeypox. Most people are not seriously unwell with monkeypox but some can experience intense pain. Serious illness is more likely in those with a weak immune system, pregnant people and young children. So far, in non-endemic countries, monkeypox is rarely fatal, however, people have died during this current outbreak.

 

Monkeypox is usually a self-limiting illness, meaning most people will recover from the virus themselves at home within a few weeks.

 

Most people are not seriously unwell with monkeypox but some can experience intense pain. Serious illness is more likely in those with a weak immune system, pregnant people and young children. Very few people in Ireland have been hospitalised with monkeypox. So far, in non-endemic countries, monkeypox is rarely fatal, however, people have died during this current outbreak.

 

For up to date information about monkeypox visit the HPSC website

How is Monkeypox Transmitted?

Monkeypox can be passed on from person to person through:

  • Very close contact with a person that has a moneypox skin rash, blisters, ulcers or scabs. This includes any kind of sexual contact (oral sex, anal, vaginal/frontal) and intimate contact (kissing, cuddling, holding hands).
  • Contact with clothing, bedding, towels, etc that have been used by a person who has monkeypox.
  • Breathing in droplets from the coughing or sneezing of someone who has monkeypox.

It is important to know that we are still learning about how monkeypox is transmitted. We’ll update you on this page and through social media as we know more.

What are the symptoms of Monkeypox?

Initial symptoms of monkeypox usually appear within 5 to 21 days of being exposed to the virus. Symptoms include:

  • fever (of 38C or higher),
  • headache,
  • muscle aches,
  • backache,
  • swollen lymph nodes,
  • chills & exhaustion.
  • pain or bleeding from your rectum (bum)

An important symptom to remain alert to is an unusual rash, spots, blisters, ulcers or scabs. These can occur on any part of your body but many of the people in this current outbreak are developing the spots in or around their genitals, bum or mouth. The spots go through a number of stages (see pictures below). Starting as raised red spots, which turn into small blisters that are filled with fluid. The blisters eventually begin to form scabs which later fall off.

 

 

examples of monkeypox lesions and scabs

 

Images of the different stages of the rash can also be found on the HPSC website at the following link: www.hpsc.ie/a-z/zoonotic/monkeypox/factsheets

What if I have monkeypox symptoms?

If you are experiencing what you think might be the symptoms of monkeypox, the first piece of advice is don’t panic!  However, it is important, if you do notice any such changes, that you contact your General Practitioner (GP or family doctor) or local STI Clinic to discuss your symptoms. Do not attend a clinic or your GP without calling ahead first so that they can be prepared for your arrival and offer you the best care. To find your local sexual health clinic click here.

 

If you need to be seen by a doctor, they will organise an appointment for you and will give you advice on how to get to the clinic. In the meantime, keep your distance from other people and do not engage in sexual contact until you have been seen.

 

You can find a list of public STI services available on the HSE’s Sexual Wellbeing website or at man2man.ie/testing

How is Monkeypox treated?

Monkeypox infection is usually a self-limiting illness and most people recover within weeks, although it can occasionally cause severe complications including death. In endemic Monkeypox infection, severe disease has been seen in people with very weak immune systems, pregnant women and in very small babies.

There is no medicine that can cure monkeypox. Treatment of monkeypox is mainly supportive. This involves treating any uncomfortable symptoms, such as pain or itch, that occur, keeping the patient warm, comfortable and relaxed, and making sure they get plenty of fluids. This allows the person’s own body defences to fight the infection.

 

Further information on monkeypox infection can be found on the HPSC website: https://www.hpsc.ie/a-z/zoonotic/monkeypox/ .

 

HPSC will continue to closely monitor this situation and provide relevant updates to the public as appropriate.

Vaccine Information

Since the outbreak began, NIAC (National Immunisation Advisory Committee) recommended that vaccine be offered to high-risk close contacts of confirmed cases to help stop onward transmission. This has been happening through contact tracing. Recently, it was also recommended that the vaccine should be offered to those at high risk of infection, including gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (gbMSM) and others at high risk of unprotected exposure. Ireland has a supply of vaccines but the HSE have said that it is ‘low and limited’. They say they are actively exploring options to increase the medium to long term supply of the vaccine for use in Ireland.

 

NIAC identified gbMSM as the group most in need of access to the vaccine. The HSE is now putting plans in place to identify those most at risk and the best way to get the vaccine that are available to them. The HSE hasn’t yet given a date for a rollout but has said that their ‘aim is to ensure people at risk are offered a vaccine at the earliest opportunity’.

 

The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) have more information on monkeypox vaccination here (https://www.hse.ie/eng/health/immunisation/hcpinfo/guidelines/ch20a.pdf), and there is more information on the HPSC website here (https://www.hpsc.ie/a-z/zoonotic/monkeypox/vaccination/).

Current Outbreak of Monkeypox

Anyone, regardless of their sexuality, can get monkeypox if in close physical contact with a case. However, many of the cases in this multi-country outbreak are in men who self-identify as gay, bisexual or other men who have sex with men (gbMSM).

 

A community engagement response is underway to create awareness within the gbMSM community about monkeypox and its symptoms, including the development of key messaging that is informative but does not stigmatise. This has been designed by representatives from man2man.ie and MPOWER in collaboration with the HSE and has been recognised as best practice in Europe.

 

As the virus spreads through close contact, the HSE is advising those who self-identify as gbMSM (especially if you have undertaken international travel in the past month) to be alert to any unusual rashes or vesicular lesions on any part of your (or your partner’s) body, especially your genitalia. If they do notice any such changes, you should contact your local STI Clinic or their General Practitioner (GP) for advice. You should keep away from other people and not engage in sexual activities until you have been seen.

 

A list of public STI services is available on the HSE’s Sexual Wellbeing website https://www.sexualwellbeing.ie/sexual-health/hse-sti-services-in-ireland.html.

 

For up to date information about monkeypox visit the HPSC website

 

Monkeypox FAQs

How do I reduce my risk of monkeypox if I have multiple sexual partners?
  • As monkeypox is passed on through very close contact, sexual contact can result in transmission. Those with multiple sexual partners might consider limiting sexual contact during this time and should be alert to the symptoms of monkeypox. Anyone, regardless of their sexuality, can get monkeypox.
  • Condoms may be useful to reduce monkeypox transmission during some types of sex, but because monkeypox can be transmitted through close contact with rash on parts of the body that condoms don’t cover, they won’t offer full protection.
  • If you have a rash, contact your local sexual health clinic. Keep away from other people and do not engage in sexual contact until you have been seen. A list of public STI services is available on the HSE’s Sexual Wellbeing website https://www.sexualwellbeing.ie/sexual-health/hse-sti-services-in-ireland.html.
What happens at Monkeypox Test?

When you come to be tested you will be brought to a consultation room. You will then be phoned by a doctor who will ask a range of questions about your symptoms and sexual history. The doctor will then arrive in full protective clothing to assess you.

 

The assessment will involve checking for swollen glands and examining any lesions in particular around the groin and bum. If you have lesions a swab will be taken. If no lesions are present, they will take a swab from your throat. You will then be asked to remain isolated until your results are ready which is usually the next day or on a Monday if your test is on a Friday. You will also be given a leaflet explaining what to do in case of a positive result.

 

Where can I get further information?

It’s important to get information from reliable sources. GHN and man2man.ie are working closely with the Health Service Executive (HSE) and Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) to ensure information is accurate and accessible. We are also working closely and collaborating with MPOWER on a targeted communications campaign and outreach initiative.

 

Further Information:

 

Health Protection Surveillance Centre – Latest Updates about Monkeypox

Health Protection Surveillance Centre – Monkeypox

Monkeypox FAQs

MPOWER Monkeypox Guidance

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