Public Health England (PHE) has confirmed the country's first case of monkeypox.
PHE said on Sep 8 that the patient was a resident of Nigeria and likely contracted the rare viral infection in that country before traveling to the United Kingdom. The patient is being treated at the Royal Free Hospital in London and was previously staying on a naval base in Cornwall.
Monkeypox does not transmit readily among humans; human disease is most often linked to eating contaminated bush meat or coming into contact with infected animals. But human-to-human transmission has been documented, and the PHE said it is tracking several case contacts, including people who sat near the patient on the flight to the United Kingdom.
"It is important to emphasise that monkeypox does not spread easily between people and the overall risk to the general public is very low," said Nick Phin, PhD, the deputy director of the National Infection Service at PHE.
"Public Health England is following up those who have had close contact with the patient to offer advice and to monitor them as necessary," he said.
Monekypox is related to smallpox. It's extremely rare and mostly results in mild illness. There is no cure for the disease, but the smallpox vaccine has been used prophylactically in small outbreak settings.
Symptoms of monkeypox include fever, malaise, and eventually a noticeable pox-like rash that scabs over as the patient heals. The incubation period for human illness is usually 10 to 14 days.
Cases in several African nations
Human monkeypox was first detected in 1970. There have been scattered cases throughout Africa and Asia since then, with Nigeria reporting three cases in the mid 1970s.
Last fall, Nigeria confirmed its largest monkeypox outbreak in history, with dozens of suspected cases
The World Health Organization (WHO) said there appears to be an uptick in monkeypox activity in Africa since 2016, with the Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone all reporting cases. Cameroon also reported suspected and confirmed cases earlier this summer, the country's first in 30 years.
Sep 8 PHE press release
Sep 8 PHE monkeypox information page
May 22 CIDRAP News scan "Cameroon reports first monkeypox outbreak in 3 decades"
Oct 30, 2017, CIDRAP News story, "Monkeypox confirmed in 6 more Nigerian patients"
WHO monkeypox page