Monkeypox: Greater Manchester residents given advice on signs, symptoms and vaccines as cases continue to rise

The health authorities have given an updated on the virus outbreak and spoken about vaccinating those most at risk and knowing what to do if you get monkeypox.

Health authorities have given advice to Greater Manchester residents about what to do as the monkeypox virus outbreak continues.

Case numbers are still rising across the North West, data analysed by our sister title NationalWorld shows.

Experts at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) have shared information on what the symptoms of the monkeypox virus are, what to do if you catch it and how you can reduce your likelihood of getting it.

Details about the rollout of a smallpox vaccination to combat the outbreak have also been shared.

What is monkeypox, what are the sumptoms and who is most at risk of getting it?

Monkeypox is a viral infection spread by close contact with someone who has it. This can be through any close physical contact with monkeypox blisters or scabs, including during sexual contact, kissing, cuddling or holding hands, touching the clothes, bedding or towels of someone who has the virus or by being close to the coughs or sneezes of someone with it.

Currently the vast majority of cases of monkeypox, which have been seen in unusual numbers in the UK since May, involve men who are gay or bisexual or have sex with men.

However, anyone can catch monkeypox, although the UKHSA has stressed that currently the risk of getting it in the UK remains low.

The monkeypox virus shown on a patient's hand

The symptoms of monkeypox include unusual rashes or blisters on the body, including the mouth, genitals and anus, a high temperature, a headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen glands, chills or shivering, exhaustion and anal or rectal pain or bleeding. ​

A rash usually appears one to five days after the first symptoms, often beginning on the face and then spreading to other parts of the body, potentially including the genitals and anus.

The rash is sometimes confused with chickenpox. It starts as raised spots, which turn into small blisters filled with fluid. These blisters eventually form scabs which later fall off.

The symptoms usually clear up in a few weeks and the illness is usually fairly mild, with most people recovering within a few weeks even without medical treatment. However, while you have symptoms you can pass monkeypox on to other people.

How many cases are there in the North West?

Analysis by our data team at NationalWorld of UKHSA figures shows there have been 144 probable or confirmed cases of monkeypox recorded in the North West as of 1 August.

There were 126 cases recorded by 28 July, meaning the North West saw a 14.3% rise in cases in those few days.

The North West had the third-highest cumulative case level of any region in England as of 1 August, and also saw the second-biggest percentage rise in cases in the period between 28 July and 1 August behind the South West.

What health and vaccination advice has been given about monkeypox?

Health experts have been advising what people most at risk of catching monkeypox should do.

Dr Sam Ghebrehewet, interim regional deputy director for the North West at the UKHSA, said: “Before you have sex, go to a party or event, check yourself for monkeypox symptoms, including rashes and blisters.

“If you have monkeypox symptoms, take a break from attending events or sex until you’ve called 111 or a sexual health service and been assessed by a clinician.

“Infections don’t care about sexuality so, whilst we’re focused on reaching those that are most likely to be affected, it’s important everyone is aware of and stays alert for monkeypox symptoms, particularly if they have had a new sexual partner recently.

“We are continuing to work promptly to identify further monkeypox cases in England through our extensive surveillance and contact tracing networks, our vigilant NHS services and thanks to the people coming forward with symptoms.”

The UKHSA says anyone with monkeypox symptoms should stay at home and get in touch with the NHS. They should also avoid events or parties for a while as it can take up to 21 days for contacts of someone to identify the virus.

The UKHSA is also urging people not to ring up the health service about the vaccination roll-out, saying those who have been identified as eligible to receive it will be contacted by the authorities.

Dr Ghebrehewet said: “We are working closely with partners including the NHS and sexual health services across the North West and in Greater Manchester to ensure that important information about the vaccine rollout and how people can reduce the risk of transmitting the disease is communicated in the most appropriate way.

“People who are eligible will be contacted about getting the jab by the NHS and local sexual health services. The NHS will provide the vaccine to those eligible, so please wait until you are contacted.

“Vaccination will further strengthen our monkeypox response and so we urge all those who are eligible for the vaccine to take it up when offered. It will help protect yourself and others you have had close contact with.

“While the infection is mild for many, it can cause severe symptoms and hospitalisation in some. Please remember that the vaccine may not provide complete protection against monkeypox, so it is still important to be alert for the symptoms of monkeypox and call 111 or a sexual health clinic if you develop any.”