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UK government releases new advice on monkeypox

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Anyone at high risk of having monkeypox should self-isolate for 21 days, the UK government said in its latest guidance.

Guidance from the UK Health Safety Agency now recommends that people who have had “unprotected direct contact or high-risk environmental contact” be isolated for three weeks.

This includes banning travel, providing details for contact tracing and avoiding direct contact with immunocompromised people, pregnant women and children under 12.

Those considered to be at high risk of having caught monkeypox may have had household contact, sexual contact, or changed bedding of an infected person without wearing proper PPE.

The agency also says they are being offered a smallpox vaccine.

The advice comes after Dr Susan Hopkins, the authority’s chief medical adviser, warned that monkeypox was spreading through community transmission.

The agency has confirmed 20 cases in the UK so far.

Dr Hopkins said updated figures for the weekend will be given on Monday as she warned of more cases “on a daily basis”.

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 warned that doctors are seeing community transmission, with cases mostly identified in people who identify as gay or bisexual, or men who have sex with men.

“We’ll post updated figures tomorrow – figures for the weekend,” Dr Hopkins told BBC One.

“We are detecting more cases every day and I would like to thank all those people who come for testing at sexual health clinics, GPs and emergency services.”

When asked if there was community transmission in the UK, she replied: “Absolutely, we are finding cases that have no identified contact with an individual from West Africa, which we have seen previously in this country.

“Community transmission is largely centered in urban areas and we see it primarily among people who identify as gay or bisexual, or other men who have sex with men.

“We recommend anyone who changes sexual partners regularly or is in close contact with people they don’t know to come forward if they develop a rash.

“There is no direct vaccine against monkeypox, but we use a form of smallpox vaccine – a third-generation smallpox vaccine that is safe for people who come into contact with cases.

“So we don’t use it in the general population. We use it in people who we think are at high risk of developing symptoms, and we use it early, especially within four or five days of the onset of symptoms.

“For contacts, it reduces your risk of developing disease, which is how we are focusing our vaccination efforts at this stage.”

Updated: May 23, 2022, 00:58

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