UK health officials confirm Monkeypox case

London, May 9 (IANS) A person in England has been diagnosed with the rare monkeypox virus, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has confirmed.

According to the health agency, the patient had recently travelled to Nigeria, where he is believed to have caught the virus before coming to the UK, the BBC reported.

The patient is now being treated at an expert infectious disease unit at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS trust in London.

The NHS defines Monkeypox as a rare viral infection from which most people recover in a few weeks.

Importantly, UKHSA officials said the virus does not spread easily between people, thus the risk to the public was very low, the report said.

“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,” the health agency said in its latest update.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Monkeypox virus belongs to the Orthopoxvirus genus in the family Poxviridae. The Orthopoxvirus genus also includes variola virus (which causes smallpox), vaccinia virus (used in the smallpox vaccine), and cowpox virus.

While the natural reservoir of monkeypox remains unknown, African rodents and non-human primates (like monkeys) may harbour the virus and infect people, the CDC said.

It was first discovered in 1958 when two outbreaks of a pox-like disease occurred in colonies of monkeys kept for research, hence the name monkeypox.

The first human case of monkeypox was recorded in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) during a period of intensified effort to eliminate smallpox. Since then, monkeypox has been reported in people in several other central and western African countries.

Outside Africa cases have been detected in the US, Israel, Singapore.

The UK first recorded the human case in 2018, and since then a handful of cases have been confirmed by health authorities.

Initial symptoms of monkeypox include fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion, the UKHSA said.

A rash can develop, often beginning on the face, then spreading to other parts of the body. The rash changes and goes through different stages before finally forming a scab, which later falls off.

However, the officials warned that close contact with an infected person can lead to spread. The virus can enter the body through broken skin, the respiratory tract or through the eyes, nose or mouth, the report said.