Monkeypox outbreak in UK as Matt Hancock confirms cases under investigation

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The UK is dealing with an outbreak of monkeypox, Health Secretary Matt Hancock casually told MPs today.

Two people – both members of the same household – are being monitored after the virus was identified in North Wales.

One is currently being treated in a hospital in England, health chiefs confirmed.

Public Health Wales has said the wider risk to the public is "low".

It is understood one person contracted the virus overseas, and then passed it to someone they live with.

But Mr Hancock described it as "absolutely standard" while addressing MPs at the Health and Social Select Committee this afternoon.

The monkeypox virus causes a disease with symptoms similar, but less severe, to smallpox, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The Health Secretary said he is aware of an outbreak of monkeypox in the UK
(Image: Getty Images)

Describing his response to the Covid pandemic, the Health Secretary said that he had to be constantly aware of outbreaks of other diseases.

He said: He added: “As Health Secretary, you’re dealing with these sorts of outbreaks all of the time – I’m currently dealing with a monkey pox outbreak and cases of drug resistant TB, and that is absolutely standard."

In a statement Public Health Wales said "two cases of imported monkeypox" have been confirmed.

It said: "Public Health Wales and Public Health England are monitoring two cases of imported monkeypox identified in North Wales.

It is understood there have been two cases of monkeypox in the UK, with patients under observation
(Image: Getty Images/Collection Mix: Subjects RF)

"The index case was acquired overseas, and the two cases are members of the same household. Both cases were admitted to a hospital in England, where one currently remains.

"Monitoring and follow-up of the cases and their close contacts are undertaken as part of normal practice, and the risk to the general public is very low."

Monkeypox is zoonosis – meaning it is transmitted from animals to humans.

It often starts with a rash before red spots appear and spread across the body, turning into red bumps filled with fluid.

These are often accompanied by flu-like symptoms such as high temperature, muscle aches and swollen glands.

Cases are often found close to tropical rainforests where there are animals that carry the virus.

Transmission of the disease is "limited", the WHO has said, and until now it has only been detected in 15 countries.

Richard Firth Consultant in Health Protection at Public Health Wales, said: "Confirmed cases of monkeypox are a rare event in the UK, and the risk to the general public is very low.

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“We have worked with multi agency colleagues, following tried and tested protocols and procedures, and identified all close contacts. Actions have been put in place to minimise the likelihood of further infection.

“Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by the monkeypox virus and has been reported mainly in central and West African countries."

According to the NHS, monkeypox is usually a mild illness that will get better on its own without treatment.

But it says: "Some people can develop more serious symptoms, so patients with monkeypox in the UK are cared for in specialist hospitals."

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