Dr Derval Igoe said that while there have been no reported cases of the virus in Ireland just yet, an incident management team has been set up so that the country is fully equipped to deal with future infections.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Dr Igoe, who is the Chair of the HSE's Monkeypox Incident Management Team, explained that monkeypox typically causes mild symptoms and most people recover by themselves without any medical intervention.
Symptoms that are ordinarily seen in people in Africa, where cases usually occur, include “flu-like, severe headache, temperature, aches and pains, [and] maybe swollen lymph glands".
“What happens then after that is the development of a rash starting on the face spreading to the arms and the rest of the body,” she said.
These rashes then “raise to little macules or spots which would develop into blisters and then crust over and heal.”
However, Dr Ingoe said that the monkeypox cases arising in Europe have had no links to Africa, and infected people have been presenting without the usual symptoms.
“These are occurring without a history of having been in Africa or a link to those cases. It's not necessarily the classical symptoms of monkeypox.
“Not everybody is getting that flu-like illness. Some people are just presenting with a localised rash.
“So that's what has been looked at in real detail now and surveillance is underway in all countries in the world.”
She said that most of the cases appear to be in young men but added that the virus is not a major cause for concern.
“Within the current increase that we have seen, there have been no deaths and there have only been two hospitalisations worldwide due to an illness.”
However, she clarified that this figure doesn’t include those who “might go to hospital to be isolated.”
Dr Igoe said cases, which are detected by a PCR test, are spread through droplet infections and skin-to-skin contact, but only if the person carrying the virus is symptomatic.
“When somebody is symptomatic and they have the rash or if they’re coughing and have symptoms, if someone is very close to them, they can get infected via droplet infection. Or otherwise, they can get it from close skin-to-skin contact with the vesicles or rash.
“Whether there’s transmission via sexual intercourse itself is still unknown, but definitely [it can happen] via close physical contact, which would happen during intimate relations.”
Experts are advising those who show symptoms of monkeypox to isolate and identify close contacts, who will then be monitored for 21 days to prevent further spread.