Patient Treated for Monkeypox After Travel to Nigeria

Tim Locke

December 04, 2019

A patient thought to have contracted monkeypox in Nigeria is receiving specialist treatment in London after travelling to the UK.

The unnamed person was staying in South West England but has now been transferred to Guy’s and St Thomas' specialist high consequence infectious disease centre.

Rapid infection control procedures have been put in place and people who may have been in contact with the patient, including on their flight, are being contacted.

Low-risk Overall

Monkeypox was first detected in research monkeys in 1958 but was first seen in humans in Africa in 1970.

The virus spreads through contact with contaminated people, animals, or materials, such as bedding. Transmission may be through contact with scabs, coughs, or sneezes.

Dr Meera Chand, consultant microbiologist at Public Health England (PHE), said in a statement: "Monkeypox does not spread easily between people and the overall risk to the general public is very low. We are following up with those who have had close contact with the patient to offer advice and to monitor them as necessary.

"PHE and the NHS have well established and robust infection control procedures for dealing with cases of imported infectious disease and these will be strictly followed to minimise the risk of transmission."

Last year there were three reported monkeypox cases in the UK, including a healthcare worker.

Commenting via the Science Media Centre, Jimmy Whitworth, professor of international public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: "Monkeypox is a viral infection that causes flu-like symptoms and a blistering rash.  Most infections are mild and patients recover fully although severe infections and even deaths have been known.  

"I understand the patient had recently been in Nigeria where there has been a widespread outbreak of monkeypox in progress since 2017.  There were two cases in the UK last year also associated with travel to Nigeria.  The infection is not easily transmitted between people, although there was a health worker in close contact with one of the cases who became infected last year.  

"The key public health measures are to isolate the patient and to identify and follow up any close contacts.  These are being done by the NHS and Public Health England so the risk to the general public is extremely low.  It is possible that additional cases will be identified from amongst the contacts of this case, or in other travellers returning from countries in Africa where the infection occurs."

Editor's note: This article was updated to include additional comment.


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