Over 100 cases of the monkeypox virus have been detected in Ireland since the global outbreak began in May.
The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) has confirmed that it has now been notified of 101 cases of the virus, which was up from 97 since last Wednesday.
The HPSC said while “anyone can catch monkeypox, the majority of cases in Ireland continue to be in gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (gbMSM)”.
"The cases in Ireland are part of an ongoing multi-country outbreak of monkeypox consisting of more than 30,000 confirmed cases of monkeypox in Europe, North America and many other countries worldwide where monkeypox is endemic,” the HPSC said in a statement.
Last month the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the multi-country outbreak of monkeypox as a public health emergency of international concern.
This declaration comes with recommendations for countries with cases of monkeypox, like Ireland, to strengthen their public health and clinical responses to stop transmission and emphasises the importance of engagement with affected communities.
Ireland’s National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) has said that smallpox vaccine can be used to provide protection against monkeypox.
"Since the multi-country monkeypox outbreak began, the HSE has received limited supplies of smallpox vaccine, and has been using this to respond to cases of monkeypox. The vaccine is being offered to close contacts after a risk assessment, and also to some healthcare workers who may be at risk of exposure through their work,” the HPSC added.
“Niac has made further recommendations to the Minister for Health, in relation to the groups of people who would benefit from vaccination to protect against monkeypox. Niac has recommended pre-exposure prophylactic vaccination should be offered to those at high risk of infection, including gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (gbMSM) and others at high risk of unprotected exposure.
“At this time, supplies of vaccine in Ireland and in the EU are low and limited. The HSE is now working to review the Niac advice, in consultation with stakeholders, and is putting plans in place to identify those most at risk and the best way to use our supply of vaccines. Our aim is to ensure people at risk are offered a vaccine at the earliest opportunity, and that we provide the best public health protection with the supplies available. Ireland, along with other EU countries, is actively exploring options to increase our medium to long-term supply of vaccines.”
Monkeypox is usually a “self-limiting illness”, meaning it tends to go away on its own, and most people recover within weeks, without needing specific treatment.
However, severe illness can occur in people with very weak immune systems, in pregnant women and in very small babies.
For each case notified in Ireland, HSE public health teams are following up close contacts of people while they were infectious.
The virus spreads through close contact, including contact with the skin rash of someone with the virus. People who closely interact with someone who is infectious are at greater risk for infection, including household members, sexual partners and healthcare workers. The risk of spread within the community in general, is very low.
Symptoms of the virus include an itchy rash, fever, headaches, muscle and back aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion.