People with monkeypox or who think they might have it “should avoid contact with other people until their lesions have healed and the scabs have dried off,” the guide says.
The World Health Organization has said the monkeypox outbreak is unlikely to turn into a pandemic, but warned that action should be taken quickly to stop the spread.
The WHO said on Sunday that nearly two dozen countries have reported a total of 257 confirmed cases and approximately 120 suspected cases of monkeypox. In Britain, which has the highest number of confirmed cases of monkeypox in the world, according to the WHO, health authorities have suggested new measures for health workers and the public.
Rosamund Lewis, WHO technical lead on monkeypox, said in a Report Monday that most of the confirmed cases have been identified with gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men, and that the risk for the general population is “low”.
“This group of people [men who have sex with men] are the ones most affected by the cases at the moment, and the idea is obviously to stop the spread so that it does not affect the more general population, ”she said. “That said, anyone can be at risk.”
Lewis said “the world has an opportunity to stop this outbreak” by identifying confirmed or potential cases, isolating them and tracing their close contacts, and keeping tabs on those who have been exposed, who according to the WHO guidelines, do not need to stay home if they do not have symptoms.
“At this time, we are not concerned about a global pandemic,” she added. “We are concerned that individuals could acquire this infection through high-risk exposure if they do not have the information they need to protect themselves.”
The UK government’s new guidelines are designed in part to help those who have or are exposed to the disease, as well as being a summary of what is known and what is not known about the virus. The document says most infections so far have occurred through close, direct contact.
People with monkeypox can self-isolate at home, as long as they are monitored by local health authorities, the guidelines say. Their close contacts do not have to quarantine if they are asymptomatic, but will be monitored and may be “asked to self-isolate for 21 days if necessary”.
People with confirmed or suspected monkeypox should “abstain from sex while symptomatic, including during the period of early symptom onset, and while lesions are present,” it says.
He adds that “there is currently no available evidence of monkeypox in genital excreta” but recommends “as a precaution” that those who have had monkeypox “use condoms for 8 weeks after infection”, noting that the guidelines could change.
The UK Health Security Agency, one of the departments behind the directive, has started offering a smallpox vaccine, a new version of which has been approved in the US for use against monkeypox, to close contacts of confirmed cases” to reduce the risk of symptomatic infection and serious illness.
Studies suggest that the smallpox vaccine is at least 85% effective against monkeypox, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. United States stopped vaccinating people against smallpox — which was eradicated globally in 1980 — on a routine basis in the 1970s.
WHO has not recommended universal vaccination against monkeypoxalthough it indicates that countries may want to vaccinate close contacts after being exposed to the virus or healthcare workers who may be exposed in the future.
During Monday’s briefing, the WHO’s Lewis said “it would be unfortunate” if monkeypox were allowed to “establish itself as … an infection capable of human-to-human transmission and to exploit the immune deficiency left behind by smallpox 40 years ago.”
“So the WHO is very keen, given the history of smallpox eradication, to also stop this epidemic as soon as possible,” she said.
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