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Health chiefs issue urgent monkeypox warning

Health chiefs issue urgent monkeypox warning to doctors and nurses as it’s revealed the deadly virus can be spread via contaminated bedding, towels, coughs and sneezes

  • Medics must not touch suspected monkeypox patients with bare hands 
  • If visited by a patient they should stop using the room until it’s decontaminated
  • The advice was released yesterday after two cases appeared within a week
  • Both patients travelled from Nigeria and have the UK’s first cases of the virus
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Health chiefs have issued an urgent monkeypox warning telling doctors and nurses to avoid touching suspected cases with their bare hands.

Public Health England (PHE) gave out the official guidance yesterday after a second patient was struck down with the killer virus in the UK.

Officials revealed monkeypox can be spread through contact with clothing or linen, such as bedding or towels, used by an infected person.

They said medics must wear gloves when touching patients who could be infected and practise good hand hygiene because the disease can spread between people via a rash which develops into skin lesions which later scab and fall off.

Officials on Friday confirmed the first ever case of the virus in the UK, in a Nigerian naval officer who had the virus and travelled to Cornwall for military training.

And yesterday they revealed a second case in the country, being treated at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital (RLUH) – but added the two were unrelated.  

Monkeypox was recorded for the first time in the UK on Friday in a Nigerian national staying at a naval base in Cornwall – the patient is now being treated at the Royal Free Hospital

Both patients had travelled from Nigeria where the rare infection is more common, and can be caught from contact with animals such as monkeys.

The hospitals treating the two unidentified patients deny there is any risk of catching the virus for those who need to visit either institution. 

The RLUH and the Royal Free Hospital in London, currently treating the first patient, also told MailOnline they would not offer any updates over the current state of either monkeypox cases unless there is a major change in their health.

PHE released the guidance yesterday in a document called ‘Monkeypox: information for primary care’.

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It reassured medics it is difficult for the virus to travel between people and it’s usually caught from animals. 

But it can be caught from clothes, bed sheets or towels used by an infected person, through direct contact with skin lesions or scabs, or from coughing and sneezing.

If a doctor sees someone who may have monkeypox, PHE warns, they must avoid touching them without gloves.

Doctors and nurses have been warned to wear gloves if they touch the skin of people who they suspect might have monkeypox, which causes lesions and scabs which can spread the virus through physical contact (stock image of monkeypox symptoms)

And doctors should not use the room in which a patient is diagnosed with monkeypox until it has been decontaminated.

The official guidance said: ‘Practitioners should avoid touching skin lesions with bare hands, wear disposable gloves and observe strict hand hygiene.’

And it said it’s important to decontaminate the room the patient was diagnosed in before it can be used again.

The document added: ‘If monkeypox is considered likely and the patient is referred to hospital, the room should not be used following transfer and the nearest [health protection team] should be contacted for advice about cleaning and decontamination.’


Monkeypox – often caught through handling monkeys – is a rare viral disease that kills around 10 per cent of people it strikes, according to figures.

The virus responsible for the disease is found mainly in the tropical areas of west and central Africa.

Monkeypox was first discovered in 1958, with the first reported human case in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1970. Human cases were recorded for the first time in the US in 2003 and the UK in September 2018.

It resides in wild animals but humans can catch it through direct contact with animals, such as handling monkeys, or eating inadequately cooked meat. 

The virus can enter the body through broken skin, the respiratory tract, or the eyes, nose or mouth.

It can pass between humans via droplets in the air, and by touching the skin of an infected individual, or touching objects contaminated by them. 

Symptoms usually appear within five and 21 days of infection. These include a fever, headache, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills and fatigue.

The most obvious symptom is a rash, which usually appears on the face before spreading to other parts of the body. This then forms skin lesions that scab and fall off.

Monkeypox is usually mild, with most patients recovering within a few weeks without treatment. Yet, the disease can often prove fatal.


PHE said if doctors do see someone with the infection, it is likely to be early on when the risk of spreading the virus is lower.

The second monkeypox patient was confirmed yesterday and is being treated at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital.

They were diagnosed less than a week after England’s first ever case appeared in Cornwall last Friday – but officials say one did not catch it from the other.

The Cornwall patient, who was staying on a naval base at the time, is now being treated at the Royal Free Hospital in London. 

Both patients travelled to the country from Nigeria in West Africa, where there was a ‘large sustained outbreak’ in September.     

Dr Nick Phin, deputy director of PHE’s National Infection Service, said it was ‘unusual’ to see two cases in a matter of days. 

Dr Phin said yesterday: ‘It is likely monkeypox continues to circulate in Nigeria and could therefore affect travellers who are returning from this part of the world.

‘However, it is very unusual to see two cases in such a relatively short space of time. 

‘We are working hard to contact individuals, including healthcare workers, that might have come into contact with the individual to provide information and health advice.’

Monkeypox is a viral infection similar to smallpox, which was declared eradicated in 1980 after a worldwide vaccination programme.

Many cases resolve themselves but it can cause fever, intense headache, back and muscle pain and a lack of energy.

Within a few days of a fever appearing, patients also experience skin symptoms which begin as a rash and progress to scabs.

Around 10 per cent of cases are thought to be fatal.

And although there is no specific treatment for the infection, the spread of it can be controlled while patients recover. 

Dr Mike Beadsworth, clinical director of the Tropical and Infectious Diseases Unit at the RLUH said yesterday: ‘We are treating a patient who has tested positive for monkeypox.

‘The patient is being cared for on our specialist infectious and tropical diseases unit, by highly trained staff who are experienced in dealing with a variety of infectious diseases. 

‘All necessary precautions are being taken by specialist staff and there is currently no risk to other staff, patients or visitors.

‘We ask that people continue to use our services as normal and that people only come to our emergency department if their condition is serious and/or an emergency.’ 

Dr Michael Jacobs, clinical director of infection at the Royal Free Hospital, said last week: ‘Monkeypox is, in most cases, a mild condition which will resolve on its own and have no long-term effects on a person’s health.

‘Most people recover within several weeks. It is a rare disease caused by monkeypox virus, and has been reported mainly in central and west African countries.

‘It does not spread easily between people and the risk of transmission to the wider public is very low.

‘We are using strict isolation procedures in hospital to protect our staff and patients.’ 

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