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Public Health Wales on monkeypox virus preparations

DOCTORS across Wales are being prepared to deal with monkeypox, after the first case was confirmed.

Welsh chief medical officer Sir Frank Atherton has already written to the nation’s GPs and hospital staff regarding preparations for dealing with the virus.

“Community transmission appears highly likely and more cases are anticipated,” he said in his letter, seen by the Argus.

Doctors have been told to stay alert for anyone presenting symptoms of monkeypox infection, which include a fever, chills, headache, exhaustion, muscle aches, joint pain, backache and swollen lymph nodes.

The symptoms of monkeypox typically appear between five and 21 days after exposure to the virus, followed soon after by a rash that goes through different stages before forming a scab, which eventually falls off.

Doctors have been told to keep an eye out for any patients “presenting with rashes without a clear alternative diagnosis, and should contact specialist services for advice”.

People with monkeypox tend to be infectious from the time their symptoms appear until all scabs have fallen off and there is intact skin underneath, Sir Frank has advised.

He has now told doctors they should prepare for strict cleaning and decontimination procedures if they come into contact with a monkeypox patient.

If a patient has to be admitted, they should be kept in single-room isolation and staff should wear PPE (personal protective equipment).

If the patient does not need to be admitted to a healthcare setting, they should self-isolate at home, based on the advice of a clinician.

Local Health Protection Teams, working with Public Health Wales, will take the lead on contact tracing and contact management for any cases that emerge.

Richard Firth, a consultant in health protection for Public Health Wales, said the agency was “working closely with our UK partners to monitor and respond to cases of monkeypox in the UK”.

He assured the public monkeypox was “a rare disease” that “does not spread easily between people”.

“The overall risk to the general public is very low,” Dr Firth added. “It is usually a mild self-limiting illness, and most people recover within a few weeks. However, severe illness can occur in some individuals.”

Monkeypox primarily occurs in central and western parts of Africa, and cases identified with that part of the world have a reported mortality rate on around one per cent.

According to the NHS, monkeypox can be spread between people through touching things like the clothing, bedding or towels used by someone with a monkeypox rash.

It can also be caught by touching monkeypox skin blisters or scabs, and from the coughs or sneezes of a person with a monkeypox rash.

Sir Frank has also advised that monkeypox can be spread through direct sexual contact and special care should be taken, by men who have sex with other men, to be alert to any unusual rashes or lesions.

What are the symptoms of monkeypox?

Initial symptoms of monkeypox include fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion, Public Health Wales said.

A rash can develop, often beginning on the face, then spreading to other parts of the body, particularly the hands and feet.

The rash changes and goes through different stages before finally forming a scab, which later falls off.

Anyone with concerns that they could be infected with monkeypox should contact NHS 111.

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