Second monkeypox strain linked with travel to West Africa identified in UK

Monkeypox virus Credit: PA Media

A second monkeypox strain has been identified in the UK, which has been linked with travel to West Africa.

However, there is no evidence to suggest that this individual case is in any way related to the current outbreak.

One person has been admitted to the High Consequence Infectious Disease (HCID) unit at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital in Merseyside with the strain, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has said.

Contact tracing is now being conducted to establish if there are any further linked cases.

As of Friday, no further cases had been identified.

Dr Sophia Maki, incident director at the UKHSA, said the risk to the wider public is “very low”.

She said: “We are working to contact the individuals who have had close contact with the case prior to confirmation of their infection, 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 and the risk to the general public is very low.

“We remind everyone who is planning to travel to West and Central Africa to be alert for the symptoms of monkeypox and to call 111 if you have symptoms on your return.”

Monkeypox virus. Credit: Science photo library

Since the start of the outbreak there have been more than 3,000 cases of the original monkeypox variant in the UK, with most of these identified among gay and bisexual men in England.

Monkeypox is related to smallpox and cases are usually found in West and Central Africa, with the virus not often spreading elsewhere.

The disease, which was first discovered in monkeys, is usually mild but can cause severe illness in some cases.

The UK will receive around 100,000 doses of smallpox vaccine to treat monkeypox, following reports the country is poised to run out.

Vaccines will be arriving in the UK in September. It comes after the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) announced there are only around 5,000 doses of the jab left.

The UKHSA announced that while 150,000 doses have been procured, only 50,000 have been delivered due to supply issues.

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What are the symptoms?

It usually takes between five and 21 days for the first symptoms of the infection to appear.

The first symptoms of monkeypox include:

  • a high temperature

  • a headache

  • muscle aches

  • backache

  • swollen glands

  • shivering (chills)

  • exhaustion

A rash, which often begins on the face before spreading, usually appears one to five days after the first symptoms.

The rash, sometimes confused with chickenpox, starts as raised spots before becoming small fluid-filled blisters. The blisters eventually form scabs and later fall off.

Most people recover within a few weeks.