As the total of Monkeypox cases rises to 56, the UK Government has ordered several thousand doses of the jab that is understood to be about 85% effective against the virus.

With a further 36 cases detected in the UK on Monday, including the first case of the virus reported in Scotland, health officials have warned that the rare virus could become endemic in Europe.

There have also been at least 85 confirmed cases of the virus across eight EU countries, including Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden, between 15 and 23 May.

New Monkeypox guidance has also been issued for close contacts including three weeks of self-isolation in light of the outbreak.

Here is how monkeypox and its "cousin" Smallpox are similar and how they vary.

What is monkeypox and why is it called that?

Monkeypox is a rare infection that spreads mainly among wild animals in parts of west or central Africa.

The disease was first discovered in monkeys kept for research in 1958 which is where it gets its name.

The first human case was recorded in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the risk of catching it in the UK is generally very low.

How are Monkeypox and Smallpox similar?

It is caused by the Monkeypox virus which comes from a subset of the Poxviridae family of viruses known as Orthopoxvirus.

This virus family also includes smallpox, vaccinia and cowpox viruses.

Hampshire Chronicle: St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, London. Credit: PASt Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, London. Credit: PA

Monkeypox and Smallpox symptoms

The symptoms of monkeypox are also fairly similar to but milder than Smallpox symptoms. 

Since they are closely related, the smallpox vaccine can provide protection against infection from both viruses.

The main difference between their symptoms is that monkeypox causes lymph nodes to swell (lymphadenopathy) while smallpox does not.

These are the symptoms you should be aware of that are related to Monkeypox, according to Public Health England.

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Aching muscles
  • Backache
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Chills
  • Exhaustion

Infected people usually start to show symptoms between five and 21 days after infection.

The UKHSA has advised that the initial symptoms include "fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion."

The government added that a rash can develop which often begins on the face and can then spread to other parts of the body.

The rash can change and go through different stages before it finally forms a scab and falls off.

How serious is Monkeypox and how does it spread?

The virus outbreak of Monkeypox has raised concerns that we may have a second Covid on our hands but Dr Nick Phin, director of public health science and medical director at Public Health Scotland has assured that this is not the case.

Dr Phin confirmed that the virus was “not Covid two” and added: “I don’t think this is Covid two, in fact, I’m sure this is not Covid two.

“There are a number of striking differences between this and Covid. We’ve got a longer incubation period. We’ve got an effective vaccine and we’ve got effective medication. There is not what we understand to be an asymptomatic phase so in other words, if you’ve got symptoms, that’s when you’re infectious.”

It is important to note that most patients recover within a few weeks of contracting the disease and do not need treatment.

However, it can cause severe illness in some people.

You can catch monkeypox from an infected animal if you've been bitten or if "you touch its blood, body fluids, spots, blisters or scabs", according to the NHS website.

The NHS also says that you can catch monkeypox by eating meat from an infected animal that has not been cooked thoroughly.

It is also possible to catch it by touching other products from infected animals, including animal skin and fur.

It's rare to get monkeypox from another person who has the infection because it does not spread easily between people.

That being said, the NHS says that it can be spread through the following methods:

  • touching clothing, bedding or towels used by someone with the monkeypox rash
  • touching monkeypox skin blisters or scabs
  • the coughs or sneezes of a person with the monkeypox rash
  • direct contact during sex

For more advice about monkeypox, visit the NHS website.