Earlier this month, a case of Monkeypox was reported in London, followed by reports of further cases in the UK and in many other countries. Understandably, people are anxious whenever an outbreak of an unusual infectious disease occurs, likely more so because of their experiences during the Covid-19 pandemic. Although we need to take the disease seriously, Monkeypox is much less of a threat to global health than Covid-19 and won’t have the same impact on societies or lead to the type of control measures we have seen for Covid-19 over the past two years.
The virus that causes Monkeypox is found primarily in small animals, like rodents, in parts of West and Central Africa – but was first identified in monkeys (hence the name). It can sometimes spread to humans and because of international travel, then spread to other parts of the world. But unlike Covid-19, which is easily transmissible and has caused huge waves of infection globally, Monkeypox spreads much more slowly, requiring close contact with an infected person or animal to spread.
Monkeypox outbreaks can generally be contained through conventional public health measures – like identifying and isolating cases early on, tracing contacts to identify people who are at risk of infection, and good infection control practices when dealing with people who are infected. We know that smallpox vaccines also provides some protection against infection and can be used if necessary in health care workers or in close contacts to reduce their risk of becoming infected. However, use of vaccination will be very limited and we won’t see it used widely in the UK.
Our public health agencies are well-placed to manage the Monkeypox outbreak in the UK. We now have much more experience in areas such as contact tracing and in isolating people with infections than we did before the Covid-19 pandemic. Although we will continue to see cases of Monkeypox in the UK and elsewhere, our public health system has the capacity to limit the outbreak and prevent it from having a major effect on our society.
The Monkeypox outbreak does however reinforce the need for the UK to maintain a strong infection control system so that we are prepared to deal with this and any future infectious diseases that may enter the country. Finally, although people should not become unduly anxious and have a very low risk of coming into contact with a person who has Monkeypox, everyone should remain vigilant and seek medical advice if they become unwell and develop an unusual skin rash.
I was very honoured to have won the 2017 Lambeth CCG Award for Outstanding Contribution to Primary Care. Lambeth CCG noted that “Dr Majeed has made a huge contribution to primary care research and teaching, as well as providing high quality kind care to his patients in Clapham, where he has worked as a GP for over 20 years. Dr Majeed was also recognised recently in Pulse magazine as one of the 50 most influential GPs in the UK.”
As a doctor with many years experience of working in the NHS, I am aware of the impact that mental health problems can have on people’s health, well-being and quality of life, as well as on their family and friends. Mental health problems are also important for employers, and result in considerable financial costs in lost production and in staff absences from the work-place due to ill-health. However, even though mental health problems are very common, many people find it difficult to talk about them.
Encouraging a supportive environment in the workplace that reduces the risk of mental health problems developing – and in supporting staff to seek help when mental health problems do arise – is very important for employers. It improves employees’ health and well-being, and creates a more productive and pleasant working environment.
As a Mental Health Champion for the School of Public Health at Imperial College London, I see my role as supporting my departmental colleagues to achieve these objectives and ensure that mental health issues in the workplace are given the prominence they deserve. I want college staff to feel they can discuss any mental health problems they are experiencing in an open and constructive manner, and not feel pressurised to keep their mental health problems hidden from their colleagues.