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The complete guide to monkeypox

Just when countries began putting COVID-19 behind them, there’s a new disease in the headlines: “monkeypox”. Common in remote parts of Central and West Africa, monkeypox cases have been confirmed in a number of countries outside the region – including the UK where cases have doubled to 20, and is raising a lot of questions about the disease. If you too are unsure about what monkeypox is and how the disease spreads, then continue reading this Pacific Prime UK article.

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What is monkeypox?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), monkeypox is a rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus. The virus belongs to the Orthopoxvirus genus, which also includes the variola virus (which causes smallpox), vaccinia virus (used in the smallpox vaccine) and cowpox virus. First discovered in 1958 in colonies of monkeys kept for research, the first human case of monkeypox was recorded in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo during a period of intensified effort to eliminate smallpox.

Symptoms of monkeypox

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has come up with a list of monkeypox symptoms for persons of any age residing in a country where monkeypox isn’t endemic. If you have an unexplained acute rash AND any of the below symptoms, it’s a suspected case of monkeypox.

  • Headache 
  • Acute onset of fever (>38.5oC)
  • Lymphadenopathy (swollen lymph nodes)
  • Myalgia (muscle and body aches)
  • Back pain
  • Asthenia (profound weakness)

Please note that the UK government describes monkeypox as usually being a mild, self-limiting illness with most people recovering within a few weeks, but also acknowledges that severe illness can occur in some individuals. 

How does monkeypox spread?

While the natural reservoir of monkeypox is unknown, it’s thought that African rodents and non-human primates (such as monkeys) harbour the virus and infect people. Today, monkeypox cases are mainly found in the Democratic Republic of Congo, along with Central and Western African countries like Cameroon, Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Liberia, Nigeria, Republic of Congo and Sierra Leone. 

It can also spread to other countries via travel, which is what happened on May 7th, 2022. As the UK government confirmed, the patient in question had a recent travel history from Nigeria, which is where they are believed to have contracted the infection, before travelling to the UK. That being said, there is now community transmission of monkeypox in the UK. Put simply, this means that cases are being discovered amongst those with no travel history to infected regions and countries. 

Community transmission 

The WHO stipulates that the monkeypox virus is transmitted from one person to another by close contact with lesions, body fluids, respiratory droplets and contaminated materials such as bedding. As such, you should protect yourself by:

  • Avoiding close contact with monkeypox patients and with wild, sick or dead animals
  • Making sure all food that contains animal meat is cooked thoroughly 
  • Speaking to your GP if you’re at risk of contracting monkeypox 

Please also note that the CDC confirms that there’s no proven, safe monkeypox treatment at the moment. Many countries use vaccines, antivirals, and vaccinia immune globulin (VIG) for the purpose of controlling monkeypox outbreaks. 

Looking for health insurance? Pacific Prime UK can help.

While it’s vital to look after yourself to prevent getting ill, it’s equally important to secure access to good healthcare in the event that you do get ill. As we know, nothing in life is certain, and being in possession of a comprehensive, private health insurance plan can put your mind at ease. No matter what happens and no matter where you are, you’ll be able to get care from the best hospitals and doctors – without having to worry about spiralling medical bills or paying out of pocket. 

Not sure where to begin in your hunt for health insurance (including expat health insurance and international health insurance)? No problem at all – Pacific Prime UK is here to help. As a global health insurance brokerage, we have 20+ years of experience helping individuals find, compare and select the best plan for their needs and budget. Sticking to our motto of ‘simplifying insurance’, we also provide a number of other free value-added services to support clients throughout their insurance journey – from insurer liaison to claims submission and much more.

Contact our team of friendly, knowledgeable and impartial advisors to get started!

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Content Creator at Pacific Prime UK
Suphanida aims to demystify the world of insurance by creating informative and engaging content. As a wordsmith, she spends the majority of her day writing and editing website content, blog posts, in-depth guides, and more.

Outside of work, Suphanida enjoys travelling to new places and immersing herself in different cultures.