Test tubes labeled “Monkeypox virus positive and negative” are seen in this illustration taken May 23, 2022.
Dado Ruvic | Reuters
British health authorities have urged anyone who tests positive for the monkeypox virus to abstain from sex until their symptoms have cleared.
In new guidelines released on Monday, the UK Health Security Agency also recommended that previously infected people continue to use condoms for a period of eight weeks after the virus has passed, as a precautionary measure.
The health agency said the risks to the general public remain low, but encouraged people to contact a medical professional if they notice any unusual rashes or lesions.
Increasing risks of sexual transmission
Monkeypox is a rare infectious disease commonly found in Central and West African countries. Symptoms include rash, fever, headache, muscle aches, swelling, and back pain.
Although the virus is usually mild and usually clears up on its own within two to four weeks, health experts have expressed concern over the recent spike in cases in countries where monkeypox does not usually spread and to the increasing risks of community transmission.
So far, the majority of cases have been spread sexually, with a particular concentration of cases among gay and bisexual communities and men who have sex with men, according to the World Health Organization.
A section of skin tissue, harvested from a lesion on the skin of a monkey, which had been infected with monkeypox virus, is seen at 50X magnification on day four of the rash developing skin in 1968.
CDC | Reuters
The public health body said on Monday it was not yet clear whether the recent outbreak could lead to a global pandemic, but said there is currently a window of opportunity to curb the rise in cases.
“Collectively, the world has an opportunity to stop this epidemic. There is a window,” Rosamund Lewis, WHO technical lead for monkeypox, said during a briefing.
The WHO also said it was currently reviewing whether the outbreak should be assessed as a “potential public health emergency of international concern”. Such a statement was made for the Covid-19 and Ebola outbreaks, and would allow for additional research and funding to contain the disease, he noted.
What to do if you catch monkeypox
If you think you have contracted monkeypox, you should isolate yourself from physical contact with others and seek immediate medical attention.
Early symptoms of monkeypox include fever, headache, muscle aches, swelling, and back pain. Rashes and lesions then usually appear on the face, hands, feet, eyes, mouth, or genitals within one to five days. These rashes turn into raised bumps and then blisters, which may fill with white fluid before breaking up and forming scabs.
Many symptoms of the virus can be easily confused with other illnesses, such as chickenpox, herpes or syphilis, however, medical confirmation is important.
If you are diagnosed with monkeypox, UK guidelines say you should self-isolate until the virus has passed. Close contacts of someone with monkeypox may also be risk assessed and asked to self-isolate for 21 days.
The illness is usually mild and most people recover in two to four weeks. Although medical advice currently varies from country to country, the UK’s National Health Service notes that you may need to stay in a specialist hospital to prevent the infection spreading to others. .