Media Hub My Account

Monkeypox advice



As we have been hearing about monkeypox a lot in recent weeks, we wanted to provide you with more information about the virus and what to do if you suspect you have it.

Monkeypox is a rare infection mainly found in parts of West and Central Africa. Though there have been some reported cases in the UK, the risk of catching it is still incredibly low. There are only 302 confirmed cases of monkeypox in the UK, and only around 700 confirmed cases worldwide, outside of Africa. It is also important to note that there have been no reported deaths due to monkeypox. 

The spread of monkeypox may occur when a person comes into close contact with an infected animal (such as rats, mice and squirrels) in parts of the west and central Africa.

You can catch monkeypox from an infected animal if you're bitten or you touch its blood, body fluids, spots, blisters or scabs.

It may also be possible to catch monkeypox by eating meat from an infected animal from central or west Africa that has not been cooked thoroughly, or by touching other products from infected animals (such as animal skin or fur).

Monkeypox does not spread easily between people, but may occur through:

  • touching clothing, bedding or towels used by someone with the monkeypox rash
  • touching monkeypox skin blisters or scabs (including during sex)
  • the coughs or sneezes of a person with the monkeypox rash

Although more people have been diagnosed with it recently, only a small number of people in the UK have had monkeypox, and the risk remains low.

You're extremely unlikely to catch monkeypox if:

  • you have not been in close contact (such as skin to skin contact or sharing a bed or towels) with someone who has monkeypox or has monkeypox symptoms
  • you have not recently travelled to the west or central Africa

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is currently classifying the most recent outbreak as a moderate risk.

Even though the risk of catching smallpox remains small, you may want to familiarise yourself with the first kind of symptoms if you are at a higher risk of transmission. If you get infected with monkeypox, it usually takes between 5 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

Monkeypox is usually mild and most people recover within a few weeks without treatment, but as the infection can spread through close contact, it's important to isolate if you're diagnosed with it. If you do contract monkeypox, have symptoms of monkeypox and are at risk of contracting the infection, you may be asked to isolate yourself at home if your symptoms are mild. Monkeypox infection is usually a self-limiting illness, and most people recover within several weeks. However, severe illness can occur in some individuals.

A rash will usually appear between 1 and 5 days after the first symptoms. The rash will often begin on the face and then spread to other parts of the body. 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.

If your symptoms are severe or you're at higher risk of getting seriously ill (for example, if you have a weakened immune system), you may need to stay in a specialist hospital until you recover. You may be offered a vaccination to reduce the risk of getting seriously ill.

If you have any concerns regarding your vulnerability, please contact your health care practitioner, as they will be able to advise you of the best course of action for you.

Please remember that monkeypox is very rare, but if you are travelling to West or Central Africa, below are some things that you can do and should avoid to help reduce the risk of infection:

Do Don't
  • wash your hands with soap and water regularly or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser

  • only eat meat that has been cooked thoroughly

  • do not go near wild or stray animals, including dead animals

  • do not go near any animals that appear unwell

  • do not eat or touch meat from wild animals (bush meat)

  • do not share bedding or towels with people who are unwell and may have monkeypox

  • do not have close contact with people who are unwell and may have monkeypox