“Rapid diagnosis and reporting is the key to interrupting transmission and containing any further spread of monkeypox,” Shepherd said in a statement. “This new legislation will support us and our health partners to swiftly identify, treat and control the disease.”
The UK has detected more than 300 cases of the disease in the current outbreak, though health officials have said the risk to the general population is low.
Under the new guidelines, doctors in England are required to notify local councils or Health Protection Teams if they suspect a case. Laboratories must notify the Health Security Agency if the virus is identified in a lab sample.
The cousin of the smallpox virus has previously been mostly confined to regions in Africa but cases are growing in Europe and North America. The pathogen typically causes flu-like symptoms, followed by a rash that often starts on the face and spreads down the body. The illness often lasts for two weeks to a month and can be deadly.
Many of the current monkeypox cases are primarily among men who have sex with men. Transmission of the virus typically requires direct contact with bodily fluids, infectious sores, or contaminated material of large respiratory droplets.
Making monkeypox a notifiable disease “suggests that the government wants to focus surveillance on the entire population — not only on the risk groups identified so far,” said David Heymann, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. This will allow clear identification of all risk groups and “help better understand the epidemiology and extent of spread,” he said.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention raised its monkeypox travel advisory to level 2 on May 20, meaning Americans visiting countries with a current outbreak should use enhanced precautions.
While risk to the public is low, the current guidance for American travelers recommends avoiding close contact with people showing symptoms and avoiding contact with dead or live wild animals. The highest travel alert, level 3, would require Americans to avoid all non-essential travel.
On May 30, the agency added a recommendation to wear a mask to help protect against monkeypox. However, this guidance was removed from the site on Monday to make it clear that masks should only be worn “in high-risk situations including for household contacts and health-care workers, or for other people who may be in close contact with a person who has been confirmed with monkeypox” an agency spokesperson said Tuesday in a statement.
–With assistance from Fiona Rutherford.