Monkeypox: New guidance tells close contacts to isolate for 21 days

Monkeypox sores on hands Credit: AP/Press Association Images

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

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.

This includes no travel, providing details for contact tracing and avoiding direct contact with immunosuppressed people, pregnant women and children under 12.

Those who are considered at high risk of having caught monkeypox may have had household contact, sexual contact, or have changed an infected person’s bedding without wearing appropriate PPE.

UKHSA also advises that they are offered a smallpox vaccine.

Handout image issued by the UK Health Security Agency of the stages of Monkeypox. Credit: UKHSA/PA

The guidance comes after Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser for UKHSA, warned that monkeypox is spreading through community transmission.

So far the agency has confirmed 20 cases in the UK.

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 found in monkeys, can be transmitted from person to person through close physical contact, including sexual intercourse, and is caused by the monkeypox virus.

Dr Hopkins warned that doctors are seeing community transmission, with cases predominantly being identified in individuals who self-identify as gay or bisexual or men who have sex with other men.

As it is spread through close physical contact, it can affect anyone.


Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To know... 


Speaking to BBC One’s Sunday Morning, Dr Hopkins said: “We are detecting more cases on a daily basis and I’d like to thank all of those people who are coming forward for testing to sexual health clinics, to the GPs and emergency department.”

She advised 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.

Although there is no direct vaccine for monkeypox, a form of smallpox vaccine has been used in those who are contacts of cases. Those receiving the vaccines are at high risk of developing symptoms.

It comes as US president Joe Biden said that recent cases of monkeypox which have been identified in Europe and the United States are something “to be concerned about”.

In his first public comments on the disease, Mr Biden added: “It is a concern in that if it were to spread it would be consequential.”

Monkeypox is not easily transmitted between people.

Speaking on Monday, Chief secretary to the Treasury Simon Clarke assured the public that monkeypox is not a "repeat of" Covid-19.

He told Sky News: "As with any new disease, and obviously after the Covid pandemic doubly so, we continue to monitor this very closely.

"I would say I am cautious but I am certainly not concerned about our ability to handle the situation.

"There is a vaccine which is available and works for monkeypox, and all the evidence is that it is spread by physical contact.

"That being the case, the risk of community transmission is much lower, we have a working vaccine, if people present with symptoms or have very close contact, then we are advising that they quarantine for three weeks but the threshold for that is quite high - it really does have to be close physical or sexual contact."

Mr Clarke said he was not aware of reports of a baby being in intensive care with monkeypox, adding: "What I would say is we are cautious but we are certainly not in a position where I would in anyway worry the public that this is some repeat of Covid, because it certainly does not appear to be anywhere near the same platform of seriousness."