Monkeypox… don’t let it spoil your Pride celebrations!
Ahead of Belfast Pride on 30 July, the Public Health Agency is reminding those celebrating at the festival what they should look out for with monkeypox.
Dr Jillian Johnston, Interim Assistant Director in Health Protection at the PHA, said: “While anyone can catch monkeypox, the majority of monkeypox cases in the UK continue to be in gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM), with the infection being passed on mainly through close contact between people in interconnected sexual networks.
“Before attending any group events including bars, clubs and outside events , check yourself for monkeypox symptoms, including rashes and blisters. If you have monkeypox symptoms, do not attend events or engage in any physical contact until you’ve called a GUM clinic and been assessed by a clinician. It can take up to 3 weeks for symptoms to appear after being in contact with someone with monkeypox, so stay alert for symptoms after you have skin to skin or sexual contact with someone new.”
You should phone your local GUM clinic or healthcare provider immediately if you have a rash with blisters and either, you:
- have been in close contact with someone who has or might have monkeypox (even if they have not been tested yet) in the past 3 weeks
- have been to west or central Africa in the past 3 weeks
- are gay, bisexual or MSM
Tell the person you speak to if you have had close contact with someone who has or might have monkeypox.
Do not go to a GUM clinic or other healthcare facility without phoning first. Stay at home and avoid close contact with other people until you’ve been told what to do.
New vaccination programme
Although anyone can catch monkeypox, data from the latest outbreak shows higher levels of transmission within – but not exclusive to – gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM). In response the smallpox vaccine Imvanex/Jynneos, which is shown to be effective against monkeypox, will be offered to men considered to be at higher risk of exposure.
An individual’s eligibility for vaccination depends on a number of factors, similar to the criteria used to assess those eligible for HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), even if they are already living with HIV. Eligibility is detailed in the UKHSA vaccination strategy which was endorsed by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).
The vaccination programme will be rolled out over the coming months. It is important that gay and bisexual men get the vaccine when offered to protect themselves and others. GUM clinics will be identifying those eligible and inviting them in turn, there is no need to phone the clinic.
Dr Johnston concluded: “We encourage everyone, regardless of their sexuality, to be vigilant about new spots, ulcers and blisters. We are continuing to closely monitor the latest data in order to play our part in providing the latest guidance and health information on monkeypox, to empower the communities most affected to best protect their health.”
Initial symptoms of monkeypox include fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion.
A rash can develop, often beginning on the face, then spreading to other parts of the body including the genitals.
The rash changes and goes through different stages – it can look like chickenpox or syphilis, before finally forming a scab which later falls off.
Find out more about monkeypox see www.nidirect.gov.uk/conditions/monkeypox
To read the latest news from UKHSA see www.gov.uk/government/news/monkeypox-cases-confirmed-in-england-latest-updates
For further information on monkeypox see www.gov.uk/guidance/monkeypox
Vaccination programme leaflets
- Protecting you from monkeypox - This leaflet is for those people being offered the smallpox vaccine to protect against monkeypox.
- Why do I have to wait for my vaccination against monkeypox? - This leaflet explains that there is a limited supply of the MVA vaccine so, initially, one dose is being offered to those at highest risk. As more vaccine supplies become available, more people will be offered the first dose of the vaccine.