Is monkeypox deadly?

A small outbreak of monkeypox has caused concern in Europe and the USA but many people are unaware of this virus.

Monkeypox is more often seen in Africa than in Western countries but is not unheard of in the UK.

Monkeypox is similar to the smallpox virus


Monkeypox is similar to the smallpox virusCredit: Getty

Is monkeypox deadly?

Monkeypox comes from the same family of viruses as smallpox but is much less severe.

No deaths have been reported from this outbreak of the disease in the UK.

The chance of catching monkeypox in the UK is very low as cases are rare.

Cases have been linked to some festivals in Europe.

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According to the World Health Organization (WHO) up to a tenth of people who contract the virus may die but this is mainly in younger age groups.

The majority of those who catch monkeypox will survive.

How dangerous is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is very rare so unless you have been to West or Central Africa recently or been in contact with someone who has it, there is little reason to worry.

The disease is transmitted through contact with blood, body fluids, spots, blisters or scabs of an infected individual.

Animals can also be infected as the disease originated from them, meaning if you are bitten by an infected animal you can also catch monkeypox.

It is possible to become infected by touching the clothes or bed sheets which have been used by someone with Monkeypox.

This means that the danger of contracting the disease is low, with around 20 cases confirmed in the UK currently.

If you do catch monkeypox, you are very unlikely to die from it.

What is the public health advice?

The NHS suggests that it is rare that anyone in the UK who has not been in contact with an infected person or traveled to Africa recently will have the virus.

If you are infected you should isolate and inform the NHS.

Nevertheless, they suggest washing your hands regularly with soap or hand sanitiser and only eating meat which has been fully cooked.

They also have a list of things to avoid:

  • Avoid wild or stray animals, including dead animals
  • Avoid any animals that appear unwell
  • Do not eat or touch meat from wild animals (bush meat)
  • Do not share bedding or towels with people who are unwell and may have monkeypox
  • Do not have close contact with people who are unwell and may have monkeypox

What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a rare infection that comes from wild animals such as rodents and primates.

It was first discovered in 1958 when two colonies of monkeys broke out in pox-like symptoms, hence the name.

The first case of a human infected with the virus was in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

It is not exclusive to any particular members of the population and is not an STI.

What are the symptoms?

The most prominent symptom of monkeypox is the rash which forms in the second stage of the illness.

Initial symptoms are:

  • a high temperature
  • a headache
  • muscle aches
  • backache
  • swollen glands
  • shivering (chills)
  • exhaustion

These can appear between five to 21 days after infection.

The rash starts one to five days after the other symptoms begin, it can be confused with chicken pox in the early stages.

Spots turn into small fluid-filled blisters, which scab over and then fall off.

Most people suffer from monkeypox for about two weeks. Is monkeypox deadly?

Sarah Y. Kim

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