Close contacts of monkeypox cases should self-isolate for 21 days, according to the latest UK government guidance.
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.
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Contacts are expected to provide details for contact tracing, avoid direct contact with immunosuppressed people, pregnant women and children under 12 and not to travel.
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The advice applies to anyone who has had direct or household contact with a confirmed case.
The BBC reports: Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser for UKHSA, said community transmission was occurring in the UK.
“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,” she said.
The UKHSA has said that a notable proportion of early cases have been detected in gay and bisexual men and has urged members of those communities in particular to be alert.
The cases have also been largely concentrated in urban areas.
“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.
Dr Hopkins added that close contacts of cases were being given an established smallpox vaccine that can help protect against monkeypox.
“We’re not using [the vaccine] in the general population,” she said. “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.”
Smallpox vaccines are around 85% effective in preventing monkeypox infection, and several countries have said they have begun stockpiling them.
It is not yet clear why this unexpected outbreak is happening now.
One possibility is that the virus has changed in some way, although currently there is little evidence to suggest this is a new variant.
Another explanation is that the virus has found itself in the right place at the right time to thrive.