A multidisciplinary incident management team has been established in Northern Ireland to prepare for any risk to the population from monkeypox.
The Public Health Agency said there are currently no confirmed cases of the virus in the region, but added that it is in regular contact with the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) regarding the situation.
The UK has so far confirmed 20 cases of the infection, with the first case in Scotland confirmed on Monday.
The virus does not usually spread easily between people and the risk to the Northern Ireland population is considered low
Dr Gillian Armstrong, Public Health Agency
Dr Gillian Armstrong, head of health protection at the PHA, said: “Monkeypox is usually a mild, self-limiting illness and most people recover within a few weeks.
“The infection can be passed on through close contact with someone with the infection, or contact with clothing or linens used by a person who has monkeypox.
“However, the virus does not usually spread easily between people and the risk to the Northern Ireland population is considered low.”
The PHA said that anyone who thinks they have been at risk of exposure with unusual rashes or lesions on any part of their body, especially their genitalia, should contact their local healthcare provider without delay.
It added that a notable proportion of recent cases in England and Europe have been found in gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men, so the PHA is particularly encouraging them to be alert to the symptoms and seek help if concerned.
Initial symptoms of monkeypox include fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion.
A rash can develop, often beginning on the face, then spreading to other parts of the body including the genitals.
The rash changes and goes through different stages – it can look like chickenpox or syphilis, before finally forming a scab which later falls off.