Monkeypox warning as PHA reveals 27 cases in Northern Ireland

Twenty-seven cases of monkeypox have been detected in Northern Ireland.

The Public Health Agency (PHA) said it is continuing to urge people to be vigilant about the infection, and urged anyone offered the smallpox vaccine to take it up to help protect themselves and others.

The PHA said the vaccination is being prioritised for men who are gay, bisexual or who have sex with men because the infection is being passed on mainly through close contact between people in connected sexual networks.

Eligibility for vaccination depends on a number of factors, similar to those for HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), even if they are already living with HIV.

The PHA is rolling out the vaccine programme across all health and social care trust areas to those assessed as being most at risk.

Some 150,000 vaccine doses have been allocated for the UK, with an initial delivery of around 50,000 doses.

Of these, 1,120 have so far been allocated to Northern Ireland, while the number currently eligible for vaccination is estimated to be around 2,500.

The PHA said this will be kept under review.

Dr David Cromie, consultant in health protection at the PHA, said: "Some eligible people will be asked to wait while stocks of vaccine are manufactured and distributed.

"Until the delivery of further doses in September, GUM clinics will continue to vaccinate in line with any residual supplies, and work to ensure that those who are not already in touch with services know where and how to access vaccination.

"There is no need to phone, as GUM (genitourinary medicine) clinics will keep a record of those eligible so that they can be invited forward for vaccination as soon as new supply becomes available."

He said the latest figures show Northern Ireland has 27 cases of monkeypox.

"Whilst this is a positive sign that cases are remaining steady, ongoing vigilance is urged, given it's too soon to determine if this will be sustained," he added.

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