Third UK Monkeypox Case is a Healthcare Worker

Tim Locke

September 26, 2018

Public Health England (PHE) says a healthcare worker has become the third confirmed case of monkeypox in the UK.

Their name and role has not been revealed but PHE said they were involved in the care of the second monkeypox patient in Blackpool Victoria Hospital before the infection was diagnosed.

Monkeypox is a rare disease that is caused by infection with monkeypox virus. This year monkeypox cases have been reported from Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, and Nigeria.

The first two cases were believed to have been contracted abroad before travel to the UK. The healthcare worker is now in isolation at a specialist unit at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle.

Monkeypox UK Cases

PHE announced the first recorded UK case of monkeypox on September 9th, which was diagnosed in a Nigerian national staying at a naval base in Cornwall, and who probably contracted the infection before travelling to the UK. That patient was treated at London's Royal Free Hospital.

The second monkeypox patient, announced on September 11th, presented at Blackpool Victoria Hospital before being transferred to Royal Liverpool University Hospital's expert respiratory infectious disease centre.

Although the risk of onward transmission is said to be low, close contacts of the healthcare worker in the 24 hours before a rash emerged are being traced in what PHE says is a "highly precautionary approach to minimise the risk of additional cases".

Dr Nick Phin, deputy director, National Infection Service at PHE, said: "This healthcare worker cared for the patient before a diagnosis of monkeypox was made. We have been actively monitoring contacts for 21 days after exposure to detect anyone presenting with an illness so that they can be assessed quickly. It is therefore not wholly unexpected that a case has been identified."

'Poorly Infectious Virus'

Commenting on the latest monkeypox case, Prof Jonathan Ball, professor of molecular virology, University of Nottingham, said: "The fact that only one of the fifty contacts of the initial monkeypox-infected patient has been infected shows how poorly infectious the virus is.  It is wrong to think that we are on the brink of a nationwide outbreak.

"There are two main strains of virus – West African and Central African.  Given that the first infected patient had travelled from Nigeria then it would be a reasonable guess that we are dealing with a West African strain; but this needs to be confirmed.  The West African virus is associated with milder disease, fewer deaths, and limited human-to-human transmission.  Patients clear the infection with relative ease within a few weeks.

"Of course, today’s news is monkeypox but tomorrow it could be anything – we live in a very connected world, where people can, and do, travel from one side of the world to the other in the blink of an eye.  That’s why it is so important to build global capacity to detect and deal with emerging viruses as and when they appear."

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