Doctors in UK must now report suspected monkeypox cases to health authorities

Total of 302 infections detected in Britain so far

Samuel Lovett
Senior News Correspondent
Tuesday 07 June 2022 16:32 BST
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Test tubes labelled “Monkeypox virus positive and negative” are seen in this illustration taken May 23, 2022
Test tubes labelled “Monkeypox virus positive and negative” are seen in this illustration taken May 23, 2022 (REUTERS)

Monkeypox has officially been designed a notifiable disease in England, meaning all doctors must alert local health authorities to suspected cases.

Under the new legal guidance, set out by the UK Health Security Agencies, laboratories must also inform local councils and health protection teams if a case of monkeypox is suspected.

To date, a total of 302 infections have been detected in the UK, making it one of the largest outbreaks of the rare disease outside of Africa.

Wendi Shepherd, the monkeypox incident director at UKHSA, said: “Rapid diagnosis and reporting is the key to interrupting transmission and containing any further spread of Monkeypox. This new legislation will support us and our health partners to swiftly identify, treat and control the disease.

“It also supports us with the swift collection and analysis of data which enables us to detect possible outbreaks of the disease and trace close contacts rapidly, whilst offering vaccinations where appropriate to limit onward transmission.”

Other notifiable diseases that practitioners have a statutory duty to report include Legionnaires’ disease, cholera, food poisoning and malaria.

Commenting on the new UKHSA update, Professor David Heymann, an epidemiologist at London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), said: “Making monkeypox a notifiable disease suggests a desire to be sure to have reporting from all sectors (public and private) and all parts of the NHS.

“It suggests that the government wants to focus surveillance on the entire population - not only on the risk groups identified so far. This will permit clear identification of all risk groups and help better understand the epidemiology and extent of spread.”

The UKHSA also announced that the latest case numbers for Britain will now be announced on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays of each week.

Globally, 780 confirmed cases have been reported by the World Health Organisation.

“The sudden and unexpected appearance of monkeypox simultaneously in several non-endemic countries suggests that there might have been undetected transmission for some unknown duration of time followed by recent amplifier events,” the WHO said on Sunday.

Commonly reported symptoms include genital and perianal lesions, fever, swollen lymph nodes, and pain when swallowing, the WHO said. It’s believed transmission of monkeypox, a viral infection, is taking place during sex.

Last week, Professor John Edmunds, of LSHTM, said a “lot of work” was required to bring the UK’s outbreak under control.

He said the fact that so many infections have been “cropping up all over the world” indicated there was “going to be a problem” in bringing the spread of infections to a close.

“You’re not going to get rid of it overnight,” he told The Independent. “It’s going to take a good couple of months of really solid work to chase up all the infections and contacts and stamp it out.”

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