New guidance has been shared amid a ‘concerning’ rise in Monkeypox cases In the UK.
Contacts of monkeypox cases at high risk of having caught the infection should self-isolate for 21 days, latest government guidance says.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) guidance now recommends that people who have had “unprotected direct contact or high-risk environmental contact” should isolate for three weeks.
This 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.
UKHSA also advises that they are offered a smallpox vaccine.
The guidance comes after Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser for UKHSA, warned that monkeypox is spreading through community transmission.
So far the agency has confirmed 20 cases in the UK.
Dr Hopkins said updated figures for the weekend will be given on Monday as she warned of more cases “on a daily basis”.
Symptoms of monkeypox in humans
The rash, which can develop as part of the virus, changes and goes through different stages before finally forming a scab, which later falls off.
The health agency also said that initial symptoms of monkeypox include fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion.
Is there a vaccine for monkeypox?
Asked if people will need to to be vaccinated, Dr Hopkins said: “There is no direct vaccine for monkeypox but we are using a form of smallpox vaccine – a third-generation, smallpox vaccine that is safe in individuals who are contacts of cases.
“So we’re not using it in the general population.
“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.”
How does Monkeypox spread?
Monkeypox is not normally a sexually-transmitted infection, but it can be passed on by direct contact during sex.
It can also be spread through touching clothing, bedding or towels used by someone with the monkeypox rash, and through the coughs and sneezes of somebody with the infection.
The virus spreads through close contact and the UKHSA is advising people, particularly those who are gay, bisexual or who have sex with men, to be alert to any unusual rashes or lesions on any part of their body.
Anyone who is worried is advised to contact sexual health services and to call ahead for an appointment, or to call 111.
The UKHSA said the virus does not usually spread easily between people and the risk to the UK population overall remains low.
It is carrying out contact tracing of people who have been in close contact with the affected.
The smallpox vaccine, which has effectiveness against monkeypox, is being offered to some people who have had close contact with affected individuals.