Northern Ireland news

First monkeypox case identified in Northern Ireland

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

The first case of monkeypox has been recorded in Northern Ireland.

The Public Health Agency (PHA) confirmed this afternoon the virus has been identified.

Dr Gillian Armstrong, head of health protection at the PHA, said: "Following the detection of cases of monkeypox in England the PHA has been in regular contact with UKHSA regarding the situation and we established a local multidisciplinary incident management team (IMT) to ensure that we are fully prepared for any potential risk to the population of Northern Ireland.

"The PHA has been working closely with trusts and GPs to raise awareness of the disease, and set up testing arrangements and clinical pathways.

"Cases of monkeypox are rare as the virus does not spread easily between people; therefore the risk to the Northern Ireland population is considered low.

"Appropriate public health actions are being taken and the PHA is working with UKHSA to investigate any potential links with UK cases and we will contact any potential close contacts to provide health information and advice."

There are now believed to be 79 cases of monkeypox in the UK with figures set to be updated this afternoon.

Health officials in Wales also confirmed their first case today.

Despite the rise in cases, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has said the risk to the overall UK population "remains low".

The Department of Health is expected to hold a press briefing this afternoon.

UKHSA teams have been tracing contacts of those with a confirmed case and are advising those at highest risk to isolate for 21 days.

A smallpox vaccine is being offered to close contacts to reduce their risk of symptoms and severe illness.

Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser of the UKHSA, said: "We are continuing to promptly detect new monkeypox cases through our extensive surveillance network and NHS services.

"If anyone suspects they might have rashes or lesions on any part of their body, particularly if they have recently had a new sexual partner, they should limit their contact with others and contact NHS 111 or their local sexual health service as soon as possible - though please phone ahead before attending in person."

UKHSA teams have been tracing high-risk contacts of those with a confirmed case and are advising contacts to isolate for 21 days.

Incident management teams were previously set up in the Republic and Northern 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.

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