As 97 cases of monkeypox are reported in Ireland - and 26,208 confirmed cases in 87 countries worldwide - here's what you need to know about this viral outbreak.
What is monkeypox?
Monkeypox is a very uncommon viral infection that produces a spotty, itchy and sore rash, and sometimes a fever.
According to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), it does not spread easily between people.
The biggest risk of spread between people is through close physical contact, including sexual contact, and close contact with household members.
There are two types of monkeypox: West African monkeypox and Congo Basin monkeypox.
It is the milder West African type that is causing the current outbreak.
Monkeypox has long been endemic in parts of West and Central Africa.
How serious is the latest outbreak?
On 23 July 2022, the World Health Organization declared monkeypox a public health emergency of international concern.
This comes with recommendations for countries with cases of monkeypox, like Ireland, to strengthen their public health and clinical responses to stop transmission, and emphasises the importance of engagement with affected communities.
How many cases are in Ireland?
In each case, public health is following up those who had close contact with the case while they were infectious.
Public health risk assessments are undertaken, and those who were in contact with the cases are being advised on what to do in the event that they become ill.
Who is at risk?
Health authorities here say that many countries have reported that the cases are predominantly, but not exclusively, in men who self-identify as gay, bisexual or other men who have sex with men (gbMSM).
Monkeypox has not been designated as a sexually transmitted disease.
Vaccination provides around 85% protection.
On 22 July, the National Immunisation Advisory Committee recommended that pre-exposure prophylactic vaccination be offered to those at high risk of infection, e.g., gbMSM and others at high risk of unprotected exposure.
Two doses of smallpox vaccine should be administered 28 days apart to as many high-risk individuals as soon as practicable.
How do people access vaccination?
Because of the unexpected rise in cases, there is a worldwide shortage of monkeypox vaccines.
A vaccination plan for those at risk, as recommended by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee, is currently being finalised by the HSE and the Department of Health.
Today, HIV Ireland called for it to commence as a matter of urgency.
The HSE said today it is now working to implement the NIAC advice, on vaccinating those at high risk, in consultation with stakeholders, and is putting plans in place to identify those most at risk and the best way to use the supply of vaccines.
The HSE said that since the multi-country monkeypox outbreak began, the HSE has received limited supplies of smallpox vaccine and has been using this to respond to cases of monkeypox.
It said that the vaccine is being offered to close contacts after a risk assessment and also to some healthcare workers who may be at risk of exposure through their work.
The HSE said that at this time, supplies of vaccine in Ireland and in the EU are low and limited.
The symptoms of monkeypox include:
- itchy rash
- fever (>38.5C)
- muscle aches
- swollen lymph nodes
So far, the World Health Organization says there have been 26,208 cases worldwide in this latest outbreak.
Most of these cases are in countries that have not historically reported monkeypox.
It has been identified in 87 countries.
Around six deaths related to monkeypox have been reported.
Monkeypox is much less contagious than Covid-19 and much less likely to result in death.
There are also treatments and vaccines, originally developed to treat smallpox, that work to protect people.