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Monkeypox: Second person found with potentially lethal virus days after first ever case in England

Nigerian outbreak in 2017 has left pockets of disease which 'could affect travellers'

Alex Matthews-King
Health Correspondent
Tuesday 11 September 2018 18:08 BST
What is Monkeypox?

Health officials have warned a second person has been identified with the rare and potentially life-threatening infection monkeypox, just days after the first ever case in England was identified in Cornwall.

The infections are thought to be unrelated and Public Health England (PHE) is trying to contact anyone who might have come into contact with either of the patients, who have both recently visited Nigeria.

The new patient is believed to have picked up the infection while visiting the country and it was diagnosed at Blackpool Victoria Hospital when they returned home and fell ill.

Health officials said infection is usually mild and the condition does not spread easily, but severe cases can be fatal and the patient has been transferred to a specialist infectious disease unit at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital.

“We know that in September 2017 Nigeria experienced a large sustained outbreak of monkeypox and since then sporadic cases have continued to be reported,” said Dr Nick Phin, deputy director of PHE’s National Infection Service.

“It is likely that monkeypox continues to circulate in Nigeria and could therefore affect travellers who are returning from this part of the world, however, it is very unusual to see two cases in such a relatively short space of time.”

Monkeypox: the facts


  • Monkeypox occurs primarily in remote parts of central and west Africa, near tropical rainforests.
  • It is similar to human smallpox, which was eradicated in 1980. Although monkeypox is much milder, it can be fatal.
  • The virus is mostly transmitted to people from wild animals such as primates but can spread from human to human.
  • The fatality rate is between 1 per cent and 10 per cent.

    Source: World Health Organisation

Initial symptoms include fever, headache, aching muscles, backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion.

A rash can also develop, usually starting on the face before spreading to other parts of the body. It eventually forms a scab that falls off.

Dr Mike Beadsworth, clinical director of the Tropical and Infectious Diseases Unit at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital, said: “We are treating a patient who has tested positive for monkeypox.

“The patient is being cared for on our specialist infectious and tropical diseases unit, by highly trained staff who are experienced in dealing with a variety of infectious diseases.”

Over the weekend it was reported that a Nigerian citizen staying at a naval base in Cornwall had been diagnosed with the first ever case of monkeypox in England and PHE was trying to trace other people who may have shared their flight as a precaution. The first case, believed to be a naval officer, is being treated at the Royal Free Hospital in London.

The disease, which was first identified in humans in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo, has mostly been spread on the African continent through the handling of infected monkeys, Gambian giant rats and squirrels, with rodents being the most likely source of the virus.

Eating inadequately cooked meat from infected animals is another possible risk factor, according to the World Health Organisation.

Healthcare staff or people who may have come into contact with either infected person should contact PHE for health advice.

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