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23rd May 2022

Monkeypox contacts advised to isolate for 21 days, UKHSA says

Monkeypox contacts must isolate for 21 days

20 cases have been confirmed in the UK so far

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has advised that anyone who has had direct or household contact with a confirmed case of monkeypox should isolate for 21 days.

Contacts are advised to provide their details for contact tracing, should not travel and should avoid contact with immunosuppressed people, pregnant women, and children under 12.

The latest guidance comes as 15 countries have identified outbreaks of the viral infection, with Belgium becoming the first nation to introduce compulsory monkeypox quarantine on Sunday.

Israel, Switzerland and Austria are the latest countries to confirm cases, with more than 80 cases confirmed in the recent outbreak in Europe, the BBC reports.

Monkeypox is a rare disease which is most common in remote parts of Central and West Africa, and was first found in monkeys.

It does not tend to spread easily between people but can be transmitted through close physical contact, including sexual intercourse.

A notable proportion of the cases in the UK have been detected in gay and bisexual men, and there is a particular effort for members of these communities to be vigilant and aware.

Symptoms include fever, a headache, chills, exhaustion, aches and swollen lymph nodes. Most notably, a rash spreads from the face across the body for around five days.

Direct contact with scabs can also spread the virus, as can inhaling droplets when a person with rash coughs or sneezes.

Recovery usually takes a few weeks after receiving specialist treatment, and the mortality rate is between 1 and 10 per cent, with young people affected the most.

So far, the World Health Organisation has not reported any deaths outside of west and central Africa. A small number of deaths related to the virus have been recorded in this region since the end of December.

Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser for UKHSA, told the BBC that community transmission was occurring in the UK, with cases being found that have “no identified contact with an individual from west Africa.”

“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,” said Dr Hopkins.

It is not yet clear why this outbreak is happening. There is also not yet a vaccine for the disease, but close contacts of cases are being given an established smallpox vaccine.

Dr Hopkins said this “reduces your risk of developing disease.”

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