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Monkeypox: Matt Hancock says there's a 'UK outbreak'

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A rare case of monkeypox – a viral infection mainly spread by wild animals in parts of west or central Africa – has been confirmed in the UK. According to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), the patient has a recent travel history from Nigeria, which is where they are believed to have contracted the infection, before travelling to the UK. According to Doctor Colin Brown, Director of Clinical and Emerging Infections, UKHSA, the threat this poses to the general public is low.

He said: “It is important to emphasise that monkeypox does not spread easily between people and the overall risk to the general public is very low.

“We are working with NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSEI) to contact the individuals who have had close contact with the case prior to confirmation of their infection, meloxicam over the counter substitutes to assess them as necessary and provide advice.

“UKHSA 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.”

Nonetheless, monkeypox can cause severe illness in some individuals.

What to look for

The NHS says: “If you get infected with monkeypox, it usually takes between five and 21 days for the first symptoms to appear.”

The first symptoms of monkeypox include:

  • A high temperature
  • A headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Backache
  • Swollen glands
  • Shivering (chills)
  • Exhaustion.

“A rash usually appears one to five days after the first symptoms. The rash often begins on the face, then spreads to other parts of the body,” explains the NHS.

The health body continues: “The rash is sometimes confused with chickenpox. It starts as raised spots, which turn into small blisters filled with fluid. These blisters eventually form scabs which later fall off.”

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It adds: “The symptoms usually clear up in two to four weeks.”

Ask for an urgent GP appointment or get help from NHS 111 if:

  • You have symptoms of monkeypox and have recently returned from west or central Africa
  • You have been in contact with someone who has monkeypox.

Can it be prevented?

There are a number of measures that can be taken to prevent infection with monkeypox virus.

Firstly, you should “avoid contact with animals that could harbour the virus (including animals that are sick or that have been found dead in areas where monkeypox occurs)”, advises the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC says you should also:

  • Avoid contact with any materials, such as bedding, that has been in contact with a sick animal
  • Isolate infected patients from others who could be at risk for infection
  • Practice good hand hygiene after contact with infected animals or humans. For example, washing your hands with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitiser
  • Use personal protective equipment (PPE) when caring for patients.

Can it be treated?

According to the NHS, treatment for monkeypox aims to relieve symptoms. The illness is usually mild and most people recover in two to four weeks.

“You’ll usually need to stay in a specialist hospital, so the infection does not spread to other people and your symptoms can be treated,” explains the health body.

“Most people with monkeypox recover within a few weeks.”

Monkeypox – UK latest

As a precautionary measure, UKHSA experts are working closely with NHS colleagues and will be contacting people who might have been in close contact with the individual to provide information and health advice.

This includes contacting a number of passengers who travelled in close proximity to the patient on the same flight to the UK.

Commenting on the confirmed case in England, Doctor Nicholas Price, Director NHSE High Consequence Infectious Diseases (airborne) Network and Consultant in Infectious Diseases at Guy’s and St Thomas’, said: “The patient is being treated in our specialist isolation unit at St Thomas’ Hospital by expert clinical staff with strict infection prevention procedures.

“This is a good example of the way that the High Consequence Infectious Diseases national network and UKHSA work closely together in responding swiftly and effectively to these sporadic cases.”

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