The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has issued new advice on the Monkeypox outbreak as it prepares to announce more cases of the virus on Monday (May 23).
Anyone who has been in close contact with someone suffering from virus is now being asked to self-isolate for 21 days. The advice applies to people who have had “unprotected direct contact or high-risk environmental contact”, the agency said.
This isolation period includes no travel, providing details for contact tracing and avoiding direct contact with immunosuppressed people, pregnant women and children under 12. Those who are considered at high risk of having caught monkeypox may have had household contact, sexual contact, or have changed an infected person’s bedding without wearing appropriate PPE.
There have been 20 cases in the UK confirmed so far, according to UKHSA. Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser for UKHSA, has said the virus is spreading through community transmission. The disease, first discovered in monkeys, can be transmitted from person to person through close physical contact, including sexual intercourse, and is caused by the monkeypox virus.
Dr Hopkins said that cases are predominantly being identified in individuals who self-identify as gay or bisexual or men who have sex with other men. “We will be releasing updated numbers tomorrow – over-the-weekend figures,” she told BBC One’s Sunday Morning. “We are detecting more cases on a daily basis and I’d like to thank all of those people who are coming forward for testing to sexual health clinics, to the GPs and emergency department.”
When asked whether community transmission has been seen in the UK, Dr Hopkins responded: “Absolutely, we are finding cases that have no identified contact with an individual from west Africa, which is what we’ve seen previously in this country. The community transmission is largely centred in urban areas and we are predominantly seeing it in individuals who self-identify as gay or bisexual, or other men who have sex with men.” Asked why it is being found in that demographic, she said it was “because of the frequent close contacts they may have”.
She added: “We would recommend to anyone who is having changes in sex partners regularly, or having close contact with individuals that they don’t know, to come forward if they develop a rash.” Dr Hopkins said that there is “no direct vaccine for monkeypox” but that a form of smallpox vaccine is safe to use in individuals who are contacts of monkeypox cases.
“So we’re not using it in the general population,” she added. “We’re using it in individuals who we believe are at high risk of developing symptoms, and using it early, particularly within four or five days of the case developing symptoms. For contacts, (this) reduces your risk of developing disease, so that’s how we’re focusing our vaccination efforts at this point.”
US president Joe Biden said the recent cases of monkeypox identified in Europe and the United States are something “to be concerned about”. In his first public comments on the disease, Mr Biden added: “It is a concern in that if it were to spread it would be consequential.”
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