Monkeypox Scotland: What is monkeypox and how worried should we be as first case identified?

The first case of monkeypox has been detected in Scotland, while 56 are now confirmed in England.

But what is the condition and how worried should we be about its spread?

Public Health Scotland medical and public health science director Dr Nick Phin said the risk to the public is low.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

But he urged anyone with an unusual blister-like rash or blister-like sores on any part of their body to seek medical advice.

Read More
Monkeypox Scotland: First case of monkeypox confirmed in Scotland

Professor Rowland Kao, chair of veterinary epidemiology at Edinburgh University, said it is unusual for monkeypox to spread in the UK, as the virus is usually found in West Africa.

There have been cases in the UK before, but usually one or two, and often linked to travel.

Experts don’t know the reason for this outbreak. Prof Kao suggested it could be down to a “small number of high-risk events”, meaning that by chance, some people who were more susceptible to spreading the disease because they have lots of contact with others, caught it and then spread it more widely than it would otherwise have been.

In this Centers for Disease Control and Prevention handout graphic, from 2003, symptoms of one of the first known cases of the monkeypox virus are shown on a patient?s hand May 27, 2003. Photo Courtesy of CDC/Getty Images

It could also be down to more travel after pandemic restrictions eased. It’s also possible that people are quicker to identify and become concerned about unusual symptoms in the wake of the pandemic.

The true cause is probably a combination of factors, Prof Kao said.

Monkeypox can spread through touching clothing, bedding or towels used by someone with the rash, and through coughs and sneezes.

This is much less common than with Covid, and Prof Kao said wearing a face covering is probably not a helpful prevention against spread. It isn’t normally a sexually-transmitted infection (STI), but it can be spread through contact during sex.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Prof Kao stressed that there is no need to panic, and this outbreak is nothing like the early days of Covid. However, it should still be taken seriously.

“On a community level I don't think we should have anywhere near the concern [as about Covid],” he said.

"But in terms of individual awareness of symptoms, it does have the potential to cause really severe disease and death, and fairly frequently if you're infected.

“So people should be aware, they shouldn't dismiss it. But that's a very different thing from thinking it's anything like the level of risk that Covid presents.”



Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.