THE Welsh Government plans to expand the rollout of the monkeypox vaccine to deal with any local outbreaks.

The risk of catching monkeypox is "extremely low" but health agencies have already begun vaccinating some frontline medical workers, close contacts of cases, and people in groups where there is more chance of them coming into contact with the virus.

Medical experts have sought to reassure the public the circulation of monkeypox remains "low" in the UK, and have stressed the virus is treatable and causes "usually mild" illness

The latest figures from Public Health Wales show 30 cases of monkeypox have been identified here so far, including six in the past week.

But on advice from the UK Health Security Agency, the Welsh Government will now prepare for an "outbreak management approach" to dealing with monkeypox.

In the short term, this means only people who are most at-risk in areas with localised outbreaks of monkeypox will be prioritised for the vaccine.

Anyone who falls within that category will be contacted by their health board.

North Wales Chronicle: Handout image of a colorized scanning electron micrograph of monkeypox virus (orange) on the surface of infected cells. Picture: NIAID via PA WireHandout image of a colorized scanning electron micrograph of monkeypox virus (orange) on the surface of infected cells. Picture: NIAID via PA Wire

The government said this was a "temporary measure until more vaccine is delivered", and another 100,000 extra doses have been ordered for the UK.

Meanwhile, Welsh health minister Eluned Morgan has warned against a "fear of stigma" when it comes to monkeypox.

She said: "We are seeing the majority of monkeypox cases in the current outbreak experienced by gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men.

"We want to reassure this community that their interests are our priority. Everyone is being asked to be aware of the symptoms of monkeypox, regardless of sexuality, however it is clear that some groups are at increased risk. 

"We are keen to avoid a situation where fear of stigma prevents individuals from accessing health care services or asking for help. It is important that we do not allow stigma or misinformation do more harm than the virus itself."

The symptoms of monkeypox usually appear 5-21 after infection and include fever, a headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen glands, shivering, and exhaustion.

A rash usually appears 1-5 days after the appearance of fever, often beginning on the face, then spreading to other parts of the body including the genitals, hands and feet.

The rash changes and goes through different stages, and can look like chickenpox, before finally forming a scab, which later falls off.

The symptoms usually clear up in two to four weeks.

If you think you have monkeypox symptoms, however mild, you should contact NHS 111 or call a sexual health clinic immediately. Your call will be treated sensitively and confidentially.