Matt Hancock says he’s ‘dealing with’ UK outbreak of rare monkeypox virus

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Health Secretary Matt Hancock has revealed that the UK is “dealing with” an outbreak of untreatable monkeypox.

Mr Hancock declined to say exactly where the outbreak was or how many people were affected but unconfirmed reports say there are two patients being treated in North Wales.

One of the people currently being treated is believed to have caught the virus on an overseas trip while the second lives in the same house.

Monkeypox virus is most commonly transmitted to humans from wild animals such as squirrels and monkeys, and human-to-human transmission is comparatively rare.

Typically, up to one in ten people who contract monkeypox may die, with most deaths occurring in younger age groups.

Human monkeypox was first identified in humans in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (then known as Zaire), according the World Health Organisation.

The 9-year-old boy who was identified as the first case lived in a region where smallpox had been eliminated in 1968.

Since then, most cases have been reported from rural, rainforest regions of the Congo Basin, particularly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. There have only been four cases confirmed in the UK, with the most recent seen in December 2019 in someone from South West England who had visited Nigeria.

Mr Hancock revealed the the news to the as part of a speech to the Government Health and Social Select Committee earlier today about his response to the Covid pandemic.

He said: “The tracing and isolation system was essentially built for very important but very small outbreaks.

“As Health Secretary, you’re dealing with outbreaks all the time. I'm currently dealing with a monkeypox outbreak and cases of drug-resistant TB [tuberculosis]. That is absolutely standard.”

Richard Firth, Consultant in Health Protection at Public Health Wales, told The Sun: "Confirmed cases of monkeypox are a rare event in the UK, and the risk to the general public is very low.

“We have worked with multi agency colleagues, following tried and tested protocols and procedures, and identified all close contacts. Actions have been put in place to minimise the likelihood of further infection.

“Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by the monkeypox virus and has been reported mainly in central and West African countries.

  • World Health Organisation
  • Animals
  • Monkeys

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