First cases of monkeypox reported in Suffolk

A vaccine programme is already underway for close contacts of monkeypox

The first cases of monkeypox have been reported in Suffolk - Credit: Nick Potts/PA Wire/PA Images PA Wire/PA Images

The first cases of monkeypox have been reported in Suffolk, the county's public health team has confirmed.

According to a recently-published agenda report for a Suffolk County Council meeting next month, there were "low numbers" of monkeypox in Suffolk as of June 2.

The number of identified cases in the county since this date has not been confirmed.

As of June 26, there were 1,067 laboratory confirmed cases in the UK and 29 in the east of England, latest Government data shows.

Cases have been reported in more than a dozen countries, including the UK, Portugal, Spain and the United States.

Stuart Keeble, director of public health at Suffolk County Council, said: “Monkeypox is usually a mild illness, spread by very close contact and most people recover within a few weeks.

“The infection can be passed on through close physical contact like kissing, skin-to-skin, sex or sharing things like clothing, bedding and towels.  

"However, the virus does not usually spread easily between people and the risk to the UK population remains low."

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Most monkeypox patients experience only fever, body aches, chills and fatigue, but some may develop a rash and lesions on the face and hands that can spread to other parts of the body.

The rash can look like chickenpox or syphilis, and scabs can form which then fall off.

Most people recover within a few weeks.

The incubation period of monkeypox is usually from six to 13 days, but can range from five to 21 days.

Mr Keeble added: “Because the virus spreads through close contact, we are urging everyone to be aware of any unusual rashes or lesions and to contact NHS 111 or a sexual health service if they have any concerns.

Please contact clinics ahead of your visit and avoid close contact with others until you have been seen by a clinician.”

There is also smaller risk of it being spread through coughs and sneezes, but as prolonged face-to-face contact would be needed, this is not one of the main routes of transmission for the monkeypox virus.

Sexual intercourse is thought to expose people to a higher risk of contracting the disease as, although it is not known to be sexually transmitted, the close physical contact involved means exposure is more likely.

A majority of the cases seen so far have been in gay and bisexual men and men who have sex with men.

The latest advice from the UK Heath Security Agency urges those with monkeypox to avoid close contact with others until their lesions have healed and any scabs have dried off.

People who have had contact with someone with the disease should also be risk assessed and may be told to isolate for 21 days if necessary.