New monkeypox guidelines tell high-risk close contacts to self-isolate for 21 days

Contacts of monkeypox cases at high risk of having caught the infection should self-isolate for 21 days, according to the latest government guidance.

Guidance from the UK Health Safety Agency (UKHSA) now recommends that people who have had “unprotected direct contact or high-risk environmental contact” self-isolate 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 the bedding of an infected person without wearing proper PPE.

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

The advice comes after Dr Susan Hopkins, UKHSA’s chief medical adviser, warned that monkeypox is 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.

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

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.

Speaking to BBC One’s Sunday Morning, Dr Hopkins said: ‘We’ll be posting updated figures tomorrow – figures for the weekend.

“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 individuals who identify as gay or bisexual, or other men who have sex with men.”

When asked why it is found in this demographic, she replied, “It is because of the frequent close contact they may have.

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

When asked if people will need to be vaccinated, she replied: “There is no direct monkeypox vaccine, but we use a form of smallpox vaccine – a third grade smallpox vaccine. generation 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 developing symptoms.

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

It comes as US President Joe Biden said recent cases of monkeypox that have been identified in Europe and the US are something “to be concerning”.

In his first public comments on the disease, Mr Biden added: “It’s a concern in that if it were to spread it would have consequences.”

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