Monkeypox

Monkeypox usually goes away by itself after a few weeks, but it can be dangerous in some people, especially children. If you think you have symptoms of monkeypox, avoid contact with others, and talk to a doctor urgently. 

Vaccine

We are currently working our way through the lists of patients who are eligible for MPX vaccines. We are prioritising All East patients who are living with HIV and those on PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis). We have devised a staged plan for vaccinations, please see below.

We appreciate there is much anxiety around monkeypox, but we ask for patience at this time as we try to deliver this vaccination program, whilst also trying to maintain the usual sexual and reproductive health services.

We are in the process of sending out messages to patients who we think eligible with contact details of how to book an appointment.

Eligibility criteria

First wave of vaccination (people already attending All East)

  • Gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (GBMSM) living with HIV with a CD4 <200
  • GBMSM currently attending service (including trans women who have sex with men) for other reasons
  • GBMSM receiving PrEP from All East

We will advertise here when we are able to offer the vaccine to GBMSM who are not currently a patient.

What is monkeypox and how does it spread?

The monkeypox virus is mainly found in West and Central Africa. Humans can catch it from animals that carry the virus, and it can then pass from person to person.

In 2022 several people were found to have the infection in North and South America, Australia, parts of Asia, and many countries in Europe, including the UK.

Monkeypox is usually self-limiting. This means that after a while it goes away by itself. After you have had monkeypox you are immune, and you can’t get it again.

Monkeypox can sometimes cause serious illness, especially in children and those with weakened immune systems. Monkeypox can cause death, but this is very rare in areas with good health care.

How does it spread?

Like many other viruses, monkeypox usually spreads through droplets breathed out through the nose and mouth. But it can also spread by:

  • direct contact with skin blisters
  • contact with objects contaminated with the virus, such as clothes, bedding, and towels

The virus can also be passed from pregnant mothers to their babies in the womb.

Monkeypox does not spread easily from person to person. To become infected, you usually need to have close contact with an infected person for some time. 

So far, most of the people infected in the 2022 outbreak are men who identify as gay, bisexual, or men who have sex with men. These groups are being advised to be alert for any unusual rashes, especially on their genitals.

Monkeypox is not usually thought of as a sexually transmitted infection (STI), and it's still not clear if the virus can be passed in sexual bodily fluids. It could just be that the close contact that happens during sexual activity leads to infection.

Monkeypox has an incubation period of about one to two weeks. This means that you can have the virus for up to two weeks before you have symptoms, and without knowing that you have it.

What are the symptoms of monkeypox?

The most common symptoms of monkeypox include:

  • a rash of blisters on the body and face
  • fever
  • headache
  • backache
  • general aches and pains
  • sore throat
  • vomiting, and
  • swollen glands

Less common symptoms include:

  • diarrhoea
  • general weakness
  • delirium (confusion and feeling unsteady)
  • convulsions (fits)

The rash starts with flat areas on the skin that then become bumps filled with liquid, which then turns to pus after a few days. After about two weeks the bumps become scabs and start to drop off.

The rash can be itchy and painful, but it’s important not to scratch or burst the bumps, as this can spread the virus and lead to scarring.

In the 2022 outbreak, the monkeypox rash seems to be slightly different from previous outbreaks. The features of the rash in this outbreak include:

  • fewer blisters (doctors often call them lesions) than usual - some people only have one or two
  • blisters/lesions appearing at different times during the illness
  • blisters appearing earlier than usual in the course of the illness

If you see a doctor with symptoms of monkeypox they will take a sample of liquid from one of the lumps on your rash and test it for the virus.

What to do if you are positive

An individual with monkeypox is considered infectious from when their symptoms start, until their lesions have scabbed over, all the scabs have fallen off and a fresh layer of skin has formed underneath. This may take several weeks.

What to do if you are positive.docx [docx] 22KB

What treatments are available?

Monkeypox usually clears up by itself after a few weeks. This means that many people with monkeypox don’t need any special treatment, and don’t need to be treated in hospital.

People with monkeypox need to be isolated while they have symptoms so that the virus doesn’t spread. This means that you should stay away from people and from pets until you no longer have symptoms. This will probably take three or four weeks. 

Antiviral medicines are sometimes given to people with severe symptoms. But if your symptoms are not severe these drugs won’t make much difference to how soon you get better.

If you have a headache or other painful symptoms, you can take paracetamol. But you should not take aspirin or similar drugs called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen, as these can cause problems in people with monkeypox.

Antihistamines, which are usually used to treat allergies, are sometimes used to help with itching.