Monkeypox

Monkeypox is a rare viral infection. It mainly occurs in central and west Africa. However since May 2022 some cases have been reported in UK, Europe and other international countries.

The risk of catching monkeypox in Scotland currently remains low.

Symptoms of monkeypox

If you're infected with monkeypox, symptoms usually start 5 to 21 days later. The symptoms often get better by themselves over 2 to 4 weeks. 

Symptoms of monkeypox can include:

  • high temperature (fever)
  • headache
  • flu-like symptoms, including muscle and back aches, shivering and tiredness
  • swollen glands that feel like new lumps (in the neck, armpits or groin)
  • a blistering rash that usually starts 1 to 5 days after other symptoms – the rash may start on the face or in the genital area and may spread to other parts of the body

The skin lesions (pox) go through 4 phases:

  1. Flat spots
  2. Raised spots
  3. Blisters
  4. Healing by scabbing or crusting over

Monkeypox rash can sometimes be confused with other diseases that can look similar, like chickenpox. A diagnosis of monkeypox requires an assessment by a health professional and specific testing. 

How monkeypox is spread

Monkeypox does not spread very easily between people. However, you can catch monkeypox from close contact with an infected person with monkeypox through:

  • touching blisters or scabs and having any skin contact (including sexual contact)
  • touching clothes, bedding, towels or personal items used by a person who has a monkeypox rash, blisters or scabs
  • coughs or sneezes from a person with monkeypox

To reduce your risk of exposure to monkeypox you should:

  • avoid close contact, including sexual contact, with someone who is unwell and may have monkeypox
  • avoid touching the clothes, bedding or towels of a person who may have a monkeypox rash
  • avoid coughs and sneezes from a person who may have monkeypox
  • practice careful hand hygiene if visiting or caring for ill friends and relatives who may have monkeypox

Treating monkeypox 

Monkeypox is usually a mild illness. Most people recover in 2 to 4 weeks.

However, in some cases if a person is really unwell, they may require hospital treatment in a specialist unit.

People who are diagnosed with monkeypox will need to isolate to stop it being spread to others. If you're diagnosed with monkeypox, the healthcare professionals in touch with you will tell you how long you need to isolate for, and whether any contacts you have had recently need to isolate too.

What to do if you're worried you have monkeypox

You should stay home, avoid close contact with others and seek help with medical services via phone until you're assessed.

Urgent advice: Phone your GP if:

  • you think that you may have monkeypox
  • you've been in close contact with someone who might have monkeypox

If your GP is closed, phone 111. In an emergency phone 999.

Non-urgent advice: Phone your local sexual health clinic if:

you have genital lesions (for example a blister or sore) and:

  • you think that you may have monkeypox
  • you've been in close contact with someone who might have monkeypox

If your sexual health clinic is closed, phone your GP. If your GP is closed, phone 111. In an emergency phone 999.

Find your local sexual health clinic

Last updated:
06 June 2022