Two cases of the rare monkeypox virus have been confirm in the UK, Matt Hancock has revealed.
Giving evidence to MPs today on the handling of the pandemic, the health secretary casually said the killer virus had been spotted.
Public Health Wales subsequently confirmed in a statement that two people in North Wales had picked up the virus abroad, but did not give further details of their location or condition.
Monkeypox is a rare viral disease which causes a blistering skin rash and feverish, flu-like symptoms. It is caused by a virus spread by monkeys, rats, squirrels and other small mammals.
The illness can spread between people either by skin-to-skin contact, coughs and sneezes or by touching contaminated clothes or bedding.
Giving evidence to MPs today on the handling of the pandemic, the health secretary casually confirmed the killer virus had been spotted
Discussing the trace and isolation system, Mr Hancock said it was ‘essentially build for very important, but very small outbreaks’.
‘As health secretary you are dealing with these sorts of outbreaks all the time. I am currently dealing with a monkeypox outbreak and cases of drug-resistant TB and that is absolutely standard,’ he said.
The Welsh health body said it and Public Health England are monitoring the two cases of the virus.
‘The index case was acquired overseas, and the two cases are members of the same household. Both cases were admitted to a hospital in England, where one currently remains.
‘Monitoring and follow-up of the cases and their close contacts are undertaken as part of normal practice, and the risk to the general public is very low.’
Cases of monkeypox were identified in the UK for the first time iwhen three people caught the infection in separate instances in Cornwall, Blackpool and Liverpool.
Around one in 10 people who become ill with the virus will die and most deaths occurs in younger age groups, according to the World Health Organization.
But human-to-human contact is ‘relatively limited’
WHAT IS MONKEYPOX?
Monkeypox is a rare viral disease which causes a blistering skin rash and feverish, flu-like symptoms.
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 is found in wild animals but humans can catch it through direct contact with animals, such as touching monkeys, squirrels rats or other mammals, or eating badly cooked meat.
The virus can enter the body through broken skin 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.
There are no specific treatments or vaccines available for monkeypox infection, according to the World Health Organization.