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Multi-country Monkeypox outbreak

27 May 2022

The World Health Organization and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control have reported on the increased number of cases of monkeypox reported in people in Europe (including the UK) and other countries around the world since the start of May 2022.

Monkeypox, due to the monkeypox virus, occurs mainly in remote parts of Central and West Africa. Most infections result from touching or eating infected animals, primarily rodents (rats, mice and squirrels) and monkeys.

Spread from a person with monkeypox to another person is not common but can occur:

  • during close contact when they are coughing or sneezing
  • from close contact with the skin rash
  • touching the persons clothes, bedding or personal items

At the start of May 2022, cases with no recent travel to Central or West Africa, and no contact with infected animals have been reported in Europe and other countries around the world.

Transmission between people is thought to be occurring through close personal contact, including during sex, with a person infected with monkeypox, or from their coughs and sneezes or clothing and personal items. To date the majority of cases have been noted in the gay, bisexual or men who have sex with men (GBMSM) community.

Symptoms of monkeypox include:

  • a high temperature
  • headache
  • flu-like symptoms (including muscle and back aches, shivering and tiredness)
  • swollen glands (in the neck, armpits or groin)

A blistering rash starts 1- 5 days after these symptoms and is similar to a chickenpox rash.

Advice to Travellers

If you are travelling to central or west Africa you should:

  • observe meticulous hand hygiene if visiting or caring for ill friends and relatives
  • avoid contact with monkeys and rodents (rats, mice and squirrels) and avoid eating undercooked meat from these sources
  • wear protective clothing, including gloves, if involved in the slaughter or care of animals in these regions

If you are travelling to any destination and will be sexually active during travel you should:

  • be aware of the risk of monkeypox, particularly if GBMSM
  • practise safe sex
  • avoid close, including sexual contact, with someone who is unwell and may have monkeypox.

Seek medical advice during or for 21 days after travelling if you develop symptoms of monkeypox and have had close contact with someone who may have monkeypox, or have returned from Central or West Africa

  • you should also ensure you are checked for malaria if returning from Africa with fever or flu-like symptoms

While a vaccine against monkeypox is not available prior smallpox vaccination provides some protection.

For further information, see Monkeypox, Sexual Health Risks and LGBT travellers pages.