Monkeypox: Close contacts of those infected should self-isolate for three weeks, says UKHSA

·2 min read
The right arm and torso of a patient with lesions due to monkeypox (CDC/AP) (AP)
The right arm and torso of a patient with lesions due to monkeypox (CDC/AP) (AP)

Close contacts of monkeypox cases with a high risk of exposure should self-isolate for up to three weeks, according to new guidance from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

It comes after public health officials announced a spate of new cases of the virus last week, bringing the current total to 20.

Under fresh guidance issued by the UKHSA on Sunday, anyone with “direct exposure” to a monkeypox case should remain at home for up to 21 days and refrain from travel.

They are also urged to avoid contact with immunosuppressed people, pregnant women and children aged under 12 where possible. The UKHSA say that close contacts should also be offered a vaccine.

Close contacts include household contact, sexual contact or contact with body fluid with the eyes, nose or mouth.

The disease, which was first found in monkeys, can be transmitted from person to person through close physical contact – including sexual intercourse – and is caused by the monkeypox virus. It is commonly found in Central and West Africa.

Speaking on Sunday, Dr Susan Hopkins, a chief medical adviser for the UKHSA, said updated figures for the weekend would be released on Monday as she warned the virus is spreading in urban areas - albeit at low levels.

Asked if there is community transmission in the UK, she said: “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.”

The virus can be spread by exhaled droplets, contact with infected linen and skin-to-skin contact.

Symptoms of the virus include fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion.

A rash can also develop, often beginning on the face and spreading to other parts of the body. Scabs can form on the body which then fall off.

In most infected patients, the virus causes a mild illness that clears up after a few weeks - though in rare cases it can cause brain swelling and sepsis.