Latest UK pest control and management news for professionals

23 May 2022

Monkeypox, rats and pest control – should we be concerned?


Twenty cases of monkeypox have been confirmed in the UK. News publications have pointed at rats as a vector for the disease.

Monkeypox rats and pest control British Pest Control Association BPCA

Photo credit: NIAID/Flickr 

What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a viral infection sometimes found in Africa. There are a couple of strains of monkeypox; a milder west African strain and a more severe variety from the Congo.

The NHS website describes the symptoms, stating if you get infected with monkeypox, it usually takes between 5 and 21 days for the first symptoms to appear.

The first symptoms of monkeypox include a high temperature, headaches, muscle ache, backache, swollen glands, chills and exhaustion.

A rash usually appears 1 to 5 days after the first symptoms. The rash typically begins on the face and then spreads to other body parts.

The rash is sometimes confused with chickenpox, and the symptoms usually clear up in 2-4 weeks, although some people need hospital treatment. 

Monkeypox in the UK

Twenty cases have been confirmed in the UK in this current outbreak.

This isn't the first time we’ve seen monkeypox in the UK, and transmission is usually linked with travel to West Africa.

Most cases in this outbreak have been in the South East of England.

Monkeypox and rats

Monkeypox is not spread easily, requiring close contact.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is thought that human-to-human transmission primarily occurs through large respiratory droplets.

Monkeypox is zoonotic (can spread animal-to-human), and UK news sources report that rats are a vector for the disease.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) states:

"Various animal species have been identified as susceptible to monkeypox virus. This includes rope squirrels, tree squirrels, Gambian pouched rats, dormice, non-human primates and other species. […]

"The natural reservoir of monkeypox has not yet been identified, though rodents are the most likely."

Should pest professionals take extra precautions?

Beyond your usual PPE, there's currently no need to take extra precautions when working around rats.

Animal-to-human transmission can only occur from direct contact with infected animals' blood, bodily fluids, or cutaneous or mucosal lesions.

BPCA Head of Technical Dee Ward-Thompson said:

"Given the reports, there's nothing wrong with being extra vigilant around rodent carcasses; washing your hands more regularly and double-checking your PPE is adequate.

"We're not particularly concerned at the moment. However, having a hygiene and PPE refresher with your team certainly couldn't hurt.

"If your clients raise concerns about monkeypox, reassure them that the risks of transmission are very low. 

“The best thing they can do is continue with their rodent treatments and to avoid contact with dead rodents".

If you get a rash with blisters, contact your GP or call 111 and be sure to explain you're in regular contact with rodents, which can be a vector for monkeypox. 


High-risk monkeypox contacts advised to isolate

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