Let’s Talk About… Monkeypox

What is Monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a rare disease that is caused by infection with monkeypox virus. It occurs primarily in remote parts of Central and West Africa. There are two types of monkeypox: West African monkeypox and Congo Basin monkeypox. The Congo Basin type is more severe, but only the milder, West African type has been spread to countries outside Africa. So far, all the cases of monkeypox seen outside Africa have been infected in Nigeria.

 

Most cases of monkeypox occur when people have very close contact with infected animals or from eating infected bushmeat. Infection can be spread from person-to-person through contact with bodily fluids and skin lesions of a monkeypox case.  Monkeypox is not very infectious – it takes close physical contact to spread between people.

 

Contact with close family members or sexual contact poses the biggest risks of person-to-person spread. The risk of spread within the community, in general, is very low.

 

For up to date information about monkeypox visit the HPSC website

How is Monkeypox Transmitted?

Monkeypox does not spread easily between people. Person-to-person transmission may occur through:

  • Very close contact with a person that has a Monkeypox skin rash, blisters, or scabs.
  • 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 Monkeypox is not known to be a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI). Monkeypox is passed on through very close contact, and so intimate / sexual contact can result in transmission. Anyone, regardless of their sexuality, can get Monkeypox.

What are the symptoms of Monkeypox?

 Symptoms of monkeypox virus infection include:

  • Rash
  • fever (of 38.5C or higher),
  • headache,
  • muscle aches,
  • backache,
  • swollen lymph nodes,
  • chills

 

The rash may first appear on the face and spread to other parts of the body. The rash generally is only seen on the face, palms of the hands, soles of the feet and occasionally in the mouth. The rash starts like pimples, that grow and turn into sores. Scabs then form, which eventually drop off.
Following sexual contact, the rash can also be found in the genitals and around the anus, and may not spread elsewhere. 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! The illness is mild and usually lasts a few weeks. 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 severe illness can occur in people with very weak immune systems, 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 patient’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.

Current Outbreak of Monkeypox

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) has confirmed cases of monkeypox in Ireland. This follows confirmation of cases of monkeypox in the UK, EU and US and Australia.

 

Many of the cases in the current multi-country outbreak are in men who self-identify as gay, bisexual or other men who have sex with men (gbMSM). These cases were diagnosed at sexual health clinics. The reason we are hearing more reports of cases of monkeypox in gbMSM communities may be because of positive health-seeking behaviour in our community. Monkeypox rashes can resemble some sexually transmitted diseases, including herpes and syphilis, which may explain why these cases are being picked up at sexual health clinics

 

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

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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