Public health specialist Dr Derval Igoe of the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) has said that a management team has been set up to prepare for the “eventuality” of monkeypox arriving in Ireland.
“It is always better to be prepared," she told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.
A number of professional groups will be involved in the management team including infectious diseases, sexual health, the National Immunisation Office and the National Virus Reference Laboratory, she added.
To date there have been no deaths worldwide and only two hospitalisations with the infection which can be spread through droplet infection (coughing) and skin to skin contact including sexual transmission.
Symptoms are usually mild and patients recover without medical intervention, said Dr Igoe. The “flu like” symptoms include a cough, swollen lymph glands and a rash on the face and body which starts with spots, then blisters which then crust over and heal, she explained.
The cases already identified in Europe did not have a direct link with Africa, the majority were young men who had been identified through sexual health clinics with localised rashes and general symptoms. The immunocompromised and those with young children were also at risk.
There were no links with previous cases and surveillance was underway around the world. It appeared there had been some cases of “silent transmission” she said, where patients had not been aware they were infected.
It was possible that some cases would be seen in Ireland which was why the management team had been set up. It was important for anyone experiencing the symptoms to isolate (for 21 days) and identify their contacts.
Dr Igoe also said it was important for the message about caution to be delivered in a suitable way to all the population. Anyone experiencing symptoms should also alter their GP or sexual health clinic.