Monkeypox: More than 70 new cases identified in England

Monday’s figures bring total number of UK cases to 179

Monkeypox: How does the virus spread and what are the symptoms?

An additional 71 cases of monkeypox have been identified in England.

The surge in cases, as of 29 May, brings the total number of confirmed cases in England to 172, according to the latest figures from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

The four confirmed cases in Scotland, two in Northern Ireland and one in Wales bump the UK-wide total to 179.

The UKHSA has reiterated its stance that the risk monkeypox poses to the UK public remains low, but has asked people to be alert to any new rashes or lesions – which appear like spots, ulcers or blisters – on any part of their body.

It adds that, although this advice applies to everyone, the majority of the cases identified to date have been among men who are gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men.

The UKHSA says these people in particular need to be aware of the symptoms, particularly if they have recently had a new sexual partner.

Health officials are advising that anyone with a rash and blisters who has either been in contact with someone who has or might have monkeypox in the past three weeks, has been to west or central Africa within the same time frame, or are a man who has sex with men, to call NHS 111 or a sexual health centre immediately.

It comes after the UKHSA issued fresh guidance earlier on Monday to support healthcare professionals in their response to the monkeypox outbreak.

The new set of measures have been agreed by the UK’s four public health agencies – UKHSA, Public Health Scotland (PHS), Public Health Wales (PHW) and Public Health Agency Northern Ireland (PHA).

The advice, devised to prevent further transmission when cases are identified, includes protocols for those testing positive for the virus, their close contacts and anyone involved in their treatment or care, including healthcare workers.

Dr Ruth Milton, senior medical advisor and monkeypox strategic response director at the UKHSA, said: “This new Monkeypox guidance sets out important measures for healthcare professionals and the public for managing the disease including how to safely isolate at home and reduce the risk to others.

“The highest risk of transmission is through direct contact with someone with monkeypox. The risk to the UK population remains low and anyone with unusual rashes or lesions on any part of their body should immediately contact NHS 111 or their local sexual health service.”

As of today, health chiefs confirmed that people who have possible, probable or confirmed monkeypox can now isolate at home, if they remain well enough, while following measures advised in the new guidance to reduce further spread and while being monitored by local health protection teams.

In addition, UKHSA has purchased more than 20,000 doses of a safe smallpox vaccine called Imvanex and this is being offered to identified close contacts of those diagnosed with monkeypox to reduce the risk of symptomatic infection and severe illness.

Dr Giri Shankar, director of health protection for PHW, said: We are reassuring people that monkeypox does not usually spread easily between people, and the overall risk to the general public is low.”

Dr Nick Phin, director of public health science and medical director at PHS, added: “We have well established and robust infection control procedures for dealing with cases of infectious disease, such as monkeypox, but it is important that the response is flexible and proportionate.

“Furthermore, it is important that our guidance reflects the difference in the way health services work across the UK.”

Dr Gillian Armstrong, head of health protection at the PHA, said: “In Northern Ireland, anyone who thinks they have been at risk of exposure with unusual rashes or lesions on any part of their body should contact their genitor-urinary medicine (GUM) clinic without delay. Please phone first.”

According to the UKHSA, the new guidance highlights the “shared scientific understanding across the four nations around transmission and biology of the disease” – which aligns with the World Health Organisation.

The guidance published today, supplied by the UKHSA, is as follows:

  • People with possible, probable or confirmed monkeypox should avoid contact with other people until all their lesions have healed and the scabs have dried off. Cases can reduce the risk of transmission by following standard cleaning and disinfection methods and washing their own clothing and bed linen with standard detergents in a washing machine.
  • Cases should also abstain from sex while symptomatic, including the period of early symptom onset, and while lesions are present. Whilst there is currently no available evidence of Monkeypox in genital excretions, as a precaution, cases are advised to use condoms for 8 weeks after infection and this guidance will be updated as evidence emerges.
  • If people with possible, probable or confirmed monkeypox infection need to travel to seek healthcare, they should ensure any lesions are covered by cloth and wear a face covering and avoid public transport where possible.
  • Contacts of someone with monkeypox will also be risk assessed and told to isolate for 21 days if necessary.
  • The minimum recommended personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff working with confirmed cases includes fit tested FFP3 respirators, aprons, eye protection and gloves. For possible or probable cases minimum recommended PPE for staff includes fluid repellent surgical facemasks, gowns, gloves and eye protection.
  • Within non-domestic residential settings (eg adult social care, prisons, homeless shelters, refuges), individuals who are clinically well should be managed in a single room with separate toilet facilities where possible. Close contacts of confirmed cases should be assessed for vaccination.

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