Northern Ireland news

Teams set up north and south to prepare Ireland for monkeypox

The Public Health Agency (PHA) in Northern Ireland said monkeypox is mild and is not spread easily

A CASE of monkeypox may be seen in Ireland, health authorities in the Republic have said.

Incident management teams have been set up in the Republic and Northern Ireland after 20 cases were confirmed in England and one in Scotland.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) later said it has detected 36 additional cases of monkeypox in England, bringing the total number of infections in the UK to 57.

No cases have so far been confirmed in Ireland.

The Public Health Agency (PHA) in Northern Ireland said the disease is mild and is not spread easily.

Symptoms of monkeypox include fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion.

A rash can develop, often beginning on the face, then spreading to other parts of the body including the genitals.

Dr Derval Igoe, chair of the Republic's management team, said there is a possibility that monkeypox cases could be seen in Ireland.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland programme, she said the disease was being monitored across the world.

She added that "there have been no deaths and there have only been two hospitalisations worldwide due to an illness".

Dr Igoe is the interim director of the Republic of Ireland's Health Protection Surveillance Centre.

"We do have a lot of a lot of different professional groups working on this," she said.

"We have our sexual health and infectious disease experts in the hospitals, also our national isolation unit, the virus reference lab, national immunisation office and the Department of Health."

Management teams have been set up to tackle the spread of monkeypox

The PHA said it is in regular contact with UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) over monkeypox.

Dr Gillian Armstrong, head of health protection at the PHA, said: "Monkeypox is usually a mild self-limiting illness and most people recover within a few weeks.

"The infection can be passed on through close contact with someone with the infection, or contact with clothing or linens used by a person who has monkeypox.

"However, the virus does not usually spread easily between people and the risk to the Northern Ireland population is considered low."

The PHA said anyone who noticed unusual rashes or lesions on any part of their body, especially their genitalia, should contact their local healthcare provider or GUM clinic.

It said some cases in England and Europe had been found in gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men.

The PHA urged men to be aware of the symptoms and seek help if concerned.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said monkeypox can be contained.

Dr Maria Van Kerkhove from the WHO, said it can be particularly contained in countries where outbreaks are happening across Europe and north America right now "but we can't take our eye off the ball on what's happening in endemic countries".

"Transmission is really happening from skin-to-skin contact, most of the people who have been identified have more of a mild disease," she says.

Dr Rosamund Lewis, head of the WHO's smallpox secretariat, said several countries have been reporting monkeypox over the last few years, including Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic and Cameroon.

She says the WHO is working closely with those countries.

For further information on monkeypox see www.nhs.uk/conditions/monkeypox

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