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Look out for monkeypox symptoms at Belfast Pride, warns Public Health Agency

Those celebrating at Belfast’s Pride festival have been urged to be aware of the symptoms associated with monkeypox, according to the Public Health Agency.

While anyone can catch monkeypox, the majority of cases in the UK have been in gay and bisexual men and with the city’s Pride event to take place on Saturday, the PHA said people should check themselves for the tell-tale signs including rashes and blisters.

“While anyone can catch monkeypox, the majority of monkeypox cases in the UK continue to be in gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM), with the infection being passed on mainly through close contact between people in interconnected sexual networks,” Dr Jillian Johnston from the PHA said.

“Before attending any group events including bars, clubs and outside events, check yourself for monkeypox symptoms, including rashes and blisters.

“If you have monkeypox symptoms, do not attend events or engage in any physical contact until you’ve called a GUM clinic and been assessed by a clinician.

“It can take up to 3 weeks for symptoms to appear after being in contact with someone with monkeypox, so stay alert for symptoms after you have skin to skin or sexual contact with someone new.”

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Initial symptoms of monkeypox include fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion.

A rash can also develop, often beginning on the face, before then spreading to other parts of the body, including the genitals.

The PHA said if anyone shows signs of those symptoms they should “phone first” to their local GUM clinic or healthcare provider.

People should also be particularly careful if they have been in close contact with someone who has or might have monkeypox or have been to west or central Africa in the past three weeks.

They also highlighted the effective monkeypox vaccine which is offered to men considered to be at higher risk of exposure.

The PHA said a vaccination operated by GUM clinics will be rolled out in the coming months.

“We encourage everyone, regardless of their sexuality, to be vigilant about new spots, ulcers and blisters,” Dr Johnston added.

“We are continuing to closely monitor the latest data in order to play our part in providing the latest guidance and health information on monkeypox, to empower the communities most affected to best protect their health.”

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