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Monkeypox outbreak in Europe: UK guidance recommends close contacts isolate for 21 days

Published on 23/05/22 at 12:38pm

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has released updated guidance on monkeypox now recommending that those who have had “unprotected direct contact or high-risk environmental contact” should isolate for three weeks.

The guidelines for isolation include no travel, providing details for contact tracing, and avoiding direct contact with immunosuppressed people, pregnant women and children under 12.

Medium-risk categories for contact include drivers and passengers in a shared car or taxi, people seated directly next to a monkeypox case on a plane, or someone who has had no direct contact but was within one metre of a symptomatic monkeypox case without PPE.

Since 13 May, cases of monkeypox have been reported to WHO from 12 Member States that are not endemic for monkeypox virus, across three WHO regions. No associated deaths have been reported to date.

Current available evidence suggests that those who are most at risk are those who have had close physical contact with someone with monkeypox, while they are symptomatic.

Monkeypox is a viral zoonosis (a virus transmitted to humans from animals) with symptoms very similar to those seen in the past in smallpox patients. It is clinically less severe than the smallpox virus.

It is caused by the monkeypox virus which belongs to the orthopoxvirus genus of the Poxviridae family. The name monkeypox originates from the initial discovery of the virus in monkeys in a Danish laboratory in 1958. The first human case was identified in a child in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1970.

Monkeypox virus is transmitted from one person to another by close contact with lesions, body fluids, respiratory droplets and contaminated materials such as bedding. The incubation period of monkeypox is usually from 6 to 13 days but can range from 5 to 21 days.

Monkeypox is usually self-limiting, but may be severe in some individuals, such as children, pregnant women or persons with immune suppression due to other health conditions.

WHO has described “an urgent need to raise awareness about monkeypox and undertake comprehensive case finding and isolation (provided with supportive care), contact tracing and supportive care to limit further onward transmission.”

Ana Ovey

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